“Last year, Jessie Harrell went to see her gynecologist for a routine appointment,” Heather Perlberg writes over at Bloomberg. “She’d been seeing Dr. Tim Baird for 14 years, ever since she showed up at the hospital in labor five weeks early. He’d been on call that morning, and she’d been reassured by his calm demeanor, even as he delivered her first child via an emergency cesarean section. But this time, right before Harrell’s visit, a staff member in Dr. Baird’s office in Jacksonville, Fla., called and asked her to watch a video on the medical group’s website. She clicked a link and saw an attractive actress in an immaculate office explaining a new policy. All of Dr. Baird’s patients, Harrell learned, needed to sign a form agreeing to ‘binding arbitration,’ a legal concept that meant she was waiving her right to a jury trial in the event of medical malpractice. When she objected, the woman on the phone told her she could see Dr. Baird one more time, but she’d have to find a new practice after that. In the exam room the doctor began as he always had, by asking Harrell about her two daughters. He was apologetic about the new requirement but said it was out of his hands. His office and dozens of other locations in his medical group had been sold to Lindsay Goldberg, a New York-based private equity firm with more than 100 physician offices and surgery centers across Florida. This was the new reality, he said, whether he liked it or not. Harrell was heartbroken, and not just because she trusted Dr. Baird. Harrell is a lawyer—she has her own appellate firm in Jacksonville—so giving up a constitutional right would’ve been bad enough. What made it even worse was that she recognized every page of the agreement the office was asking her to sign. In 2016 she’d successfully argued a case that involved a woman who’d sued her gynecologist, a doctor with a large group called Women’s Care Florida, after signing an almost identical form.” Heather Perlberg, “The Doctor Will See You Once You Sign This Binding Arbitration Agreement,” Bloomberg.
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded... More by Jeanne Pinder