Arbitration is a fast-growing method of dispute resolution both in the U. S. and internationally. In the past, some placed arbitration on a lower plane than courtroom justice. However, arbitration law, processes and procedures have evolved, and today arbitration rests on a solid legal foundation. Parties to a dispute benefit from tested and judicially-accepted sets of administered arbitration rules such as those of the National Arbitration Forum.
Arbitration offers numerous advantages over lengthy and expensive lawsuits, and it is worthwhile to consider these advantages when deciding how to resolve health claims and healthcare billing disputes.
Parties with health claims have a great deal of control over the arbitration process. In their arbitration agreement, parties can select an organization to administer the arbitration, choose the rules that best meet their needs, and include procedures of their own design, including that the arbitrator should apply the substantive law, discovery procedures, costs and timelines. In the best scenario, parties should be able to select the arbitrator who will decide the case and to reject arbitrators who are potentially biased.
Properly administered, the arbitration of health claims and billing disputes is a much quicker process than litigation. Even simple billing disputes can take more than two years when they proceed to trial in court. In contrast, arbitration tends to be a relatively quick solution. The filing documents are simple, rules are fewer and easier to understand, hearings are easily scheduled, and awards are issued promptly. Discovery is available and is not the prolonged ordeal it can be in litigation. The arbitrator can decide all issues at the final hearing. In most cases, the entire process takes only a few months, rather than years.
When carefully administered, arbitration is significantly less expensive than litigation. Costs, which include filing fees and hearing fees, should be kept in proportion to the amount in dispute. This is especially true if document, telephone, or online hearings are used. Arbitration filing fees begin at $25 for a small claim, and arbitrators charge an hourly rate in line with what attorneys charge in a given locale. Straightforward proceedings allow parties to avoid paying an attorney if they don’t need one.
The simplicity of arbitration proceedings allows parties to represent themselves, if the case in dispute is not so complex to require counsel. Uniform rules make it easier for parties to understand what is happening and anticipate what will happen next. Because of the parties’ involvement in the process, they are more likely to comply with an arbitral award than with a court order.
With busy criminal case calendars, some courts have relatively little experience resolving many types of civil matters, including healthcare. By contrast, arbitrators are often experts in the legal area of the dispute. This expertise assures the parties that the arbitrator will understand the applicable laws, customs and practices involved in the dispute.
Arbitration allows parties to resolve their disputes with some measure of privacy. If parties agree to have the arbitration process be completely transparent, they are free to do so.
Many aspects of the arbitration process—such as simplified procedures and the fact that lawyers need not be involved—reduce the tendency for parties to take unreasonable positions or make unreasonable claims or demands. This makes it more likely that parties involved a healthcare dispute will maintain good relationships despite their disagreement.
Parties are generally more satisfied after arbitration than after litigation. Arbitration is faster, easier, and less expensive, and parties have more control over the process. Win or lose, parties perceive the process as being reasonable and fair and express a willingness to use it again.
The American Bar Association calculates that high legal costs lock 100 million Americans out of the court system. In many situations, lawyers will not take a lawsuit worth less than $20,000. For parties facing these barriers, arbitration offers a fair and affordable method of dispute resolution that lets parties proceed with their own claims where they would be unlikely to do in court.
Properly administered arbitration will provide the same outcomes as court, while affording advantages in terms of procedural efficiencies. Predictability is maximized when decisions have a legal basis, and parties should ensure that their arbitration agreement or their chosen arbitration rules require that the arbitrator follow the applicable law in rendering a decision. Research shows that arbitration outcomes tend to be similar to bench trial outcomes. This makes sense in that both involve experienced decision makers applying the rules of law to decide disputes.
Today, parties to a dispute can use arbitration to avoid the expenses and headaches of traditional litigation. The decision to use arbitration may be the result of a private agreement between the parties, a requirement of state or federal law, or an order by a court.
For more information on arbitration, please visit National Arbitration Forum’s website at http://www.arbforum.com .
By: Curtis Brown, Esq. is vice president of the National Arbitration Forum. Brown leads marketing and strategic business development. The National Arbitration Forum is one of world’s leading providers of dispute resolution administration services, including dispute resolution for health claims and healthcare billing disputes. The organization provides efficient administrative services and maintains a distinguished panel of 1,500 attorneys and retired judges located worldwide who apply the substantive law to render legal decisions. The National Arbitration Forum’s standard arbitration rule set outlines the process, schedule and fees for arbitration proceedings and ensures that all legal and equitable remedies are available.