AARP and a dozen mostly pro-consumer organizations have expressed support for legislation that would prevent senior living organizations from using pre-dispute arbitration agreements.

They did so in a supportive letter to Democratic Reps. Linda Sánchez of California and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, the measure’s co-sponsors. The proposed legislation has been referred to the House Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce committees. 

“Pre-dispute arbitration agreements are forcing the elderly, those with disabilities, and their loved ones to waive their constitutional right to have their case heard by a jury when they suffer harm, even when severe neglect, serious injuries or death occurs,” the letter noted.

It adds that such agreements “are typically buried in contracts, which are presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, and leave consumers and / or families in the impossible situation of surrendering their legal rights by ‘agreeing’ to arbitrate all disputes prior to an adverse event occurring.”

With more than 38 million dues-paying members, AARP holds considerable political sway in Washington. One reason: Retirees are among the nation’s most reliable voters. In the 2016 presidential election, 71% of Americans aged 65 or more years voted, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, the figure dropped to 46%.

Clifton Porter II, senior vice president of government relations for the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, said his organization stands behind arbitration agreements. 

“Banning arbitration agreements would eliminate a fair and efficient legal remedy that provides benefits to patients and providers,” Porter said in a statement. 

“Residents with legitimate claims are awarded reasonable damages, oftentimes equal to the amount that would be awarded under litigation. We strongly oppose efforts to ban this long-used, effective procedure for residents and families to pursue legal recourse,” he added.