Kentucky's Governor Steve Beshear has vowed to improve the quality of care in Kentucky nursing homes after the state was ranked 40th out of 50 in states with quality nursing care. In a letter to nursing home advocate, Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform, Governor Beshear stated that he would call for open forums throughout the state, which would give nursing home residents and the general public the opportunity to make suggestions for improvements. Governor Beshear stated that he would also work with the state's Elder Abuse Committee to come up with solutions over the coming months, and would ask those who work for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to determine the impact of increased nursing home staffing in the state.
Kentucky's low ranking came from an advocacy group based in Florida called Families for Better Care. The group gave each state a grade from A to F depending upon the quality of their nursing home care, with Kentucky receiving a D. During that time, two other reports have come out that signal the trend of long-term care. One was a 2012 actuarial report issued by Aon Risk Solutions, which states that on average, the care operator of a 100-bed facility pays $154,000 in liability costs each year, but in Kentucky, that average is $535,000 per year.
Advocacy groups have praised Governor Beshear's willingness to address the problem. One advocate from Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform stated that the governor's recommendations for taking action are a "historic first step" toward improving long-term care in Kentucky.
Governor Beshear's actions are also no doubt welcome to the countless people who live in nursing homes or have loved ones in nursing homes. The situation has become so difficult that many Kentucky residents have moved to nursing homes in Ohio, due to a lack of quality options in their part of the state. With lower-quality care comes a greater threat of injury or even death to nursing home residents. When that happens, families of injured residents have the option of filing a lawsuit against the facility and its staff members. However, many nursing homes have inserted arbitration clauses into their contracts, which require families to forgo filing a lawsuit in court and instead take their case to arbitration. Arbitration is often less expensive than litigation, but it also means that cases may be decided by someone who is not a judge, and whose arbitration company may be biased toward the nursing home, its source of employment. Arbitration decisions are also very difficult to appeal to state court.
Some courts have found that arbitration clauses are void due to unconscionability: the agreements with these clauses were made with such a severe imbalance of power between the parties, no one would find the clause reasonable. Certainly one could argue that stressed and tired families looking for a home for their loved ones are in no position to bargain for reasonable contract terms. Hopefully in cases where a loved one is injured due to nursing home neglect, there is no arbitration clause to contend with. Regardless, if you live in Kentucky and have a loved one injured by nursing home care, contact a Kentucky personal injury attorney to learn more about your options.
Miller & Falkner is a plaintiffs' law firm serving residents of Kentucky and Indiana. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the firm provides representation in the areas of personal injury and employment law. Contact us today for a free consultation.