Are you trying to navigate through the confusing process of admitting your loved one into a nursing home? This can be an overwhelming time for most people because of all of the paperwork and provisions that the nursing home is asking for. It is very important for the resident and their family members to be aware of what they are signing before they sign it so that they do not get themselves into trouble. Two important things to note that you may be asked to sign are “Responsible Party” provisions and an arbitration agreement. Neither of these things should be signed, and you should make yourself knowledgeable on these topics.
The fact is that a nursing home cannot require anyone but the resident to be financially responsible for nursing home expenses. The signature of a family member or friend can only be required if they are signing on the resident’s behalf as their appointed agent, which then places financial liability solely on the resident. Even though nursing homes are protected from residents running out of money through Medicaid, some still use “Responsible Party” signatures as a way of tricking family members or friends into becoming liable. Usually the definition of “Responsible Party” is not next to the signature line, but somewhere within the admission agreement of 20-60 pages in a paragraph. They define it as someone who is 100% liable for nursing home expenses. This paragraph will claim that this person was not required to become liable, but is volunteering for this role, evading the Nursing Home Reform Law.
“Responsible Party” provisions are illegal and unenforceable. They are often used to require financial guarantees, in direct violation of the federal guidelines of Nursing Home Reform Law. They sometimes get away with the “requiring” part with the way that they word the clause. “Responsible Party” provisions are deceptive because the person signing often thinks that they are just signing as a contact person, instead of becoming fully liable for making sure nursing home bills are paid. Finally, neither the resident nor the “Responsible Party” receives any benefit from the Responsible Party signature. Under general contract rules, a contract is only enforceable if each party gets a benefit, and only the nursing home is benefitting. If you are asked to sign as a “Responsible Party”, you should refuse. The resident may not be admitted, but that is a risk worth taking. If you have already signed as a “Responsible Party”, you should consult with a knowledgeable attorney.
On the other hand, there is no good reason for a resident or a resident’s representative to sign an arbitration agreement at the time of admission. In an arbitration agreement, the parties agree that future disputes between parties will not go to court, but will be handled by a private judge called an arbitrator. The arbitration process is generally not a good option for the resident. It is more expensive than state or federal court because parties are responsible for paying the arbitrator by the hour. Also, arbitrators are often less sympathetic to residents’ concerns than judges or juries and nursing homes commonly write arbitration agreements that favor the nursing home over the resident. If a patient is not already admitted, most nursing homes will still process admission with no questions, but if they mention it, most states have provisions in place that nursing homes can request but not demand an arbitration agreement. If an arbitration agreement is already signed, you should consult a knowledgeable attorney.
If you signed something without understanding what it is and now need help, you need a knowledgeable nursing home negligence attorney. The Dan Pruitt Law Firm is experienced and equipped to deal with situations like these. Call us today!