7/18/2012 8:03 PM ET|
Will you get Dad's nursing-home bill?
A little-known law in many US states may leave you on the hook for your parents' nursing-home expenses if they can’t pay. Find out how to protect yourself.
You typically can't be held responsible for your parents' debts. The exception may be if the debt is a whopping nursing-home bill.
Pennsylvania's Superior Court recently ruled that a nursing home in that state could go after the son of an elderly woman who had left the country owing a $93,000 bill for a six-month stay.
Health Care & Retirement Corporation of America pursued the son, a 47-year-old restaurant owner named John Pittas, under the state's "filial responsibility" law. Twenty-eight other states and Puerto Rico have similar laws, which create a legal duty for children to financially support indigent parents.
According to Katherine Pearson of Penn State's Dickinson School of Law, the states with filial-responsibility laws (.pdf file) are: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.
In most states, the laws are seldom enforced. Filial-responsibility codes date from colonial times in America and, even before that, to the "poor laws" of the Elizabethan era in England, Pearson said. After the advent of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which prevented seniors from falling into abject poverty, some states repealed their laws, and others stopped enforcing what remained on the books.
"What we've seen is that family members who can support each other, do support each other," Pearson said, "unless there's a strong personal reason why you don't."
When there has been enforcement in the recent past, it typically was because an adult child had defrauded the parent or was otherwise at fault in creating the parent's poverty.
That wasn't the case with Pittas, and elder-law attorneys are concerned that the court's ruling could encourage other nursing homes to sue family members for unpaid bills. Some worry that increasingly strapped states might use the laws to get reimbursement for custodial care.
"Just because they haven't done so yet doesn't mean that they won't," said elder-law attorney Michael Amoruso, a past president of the New York chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. "All the states are struggling for money."
Pennsylvania, South Dakota and North Dakota have filial-responsibility laws that specifically allow third parties -- such as nursing homes -- to pursue support cases, Pearson said. Without such language, the presumption had been that third parties couldn't sue. But now, attorneys for nursing homes are testing the laws in other states by filing lawsuits "on behalf of" the indigent parents, Pearson said.
"They're going to figure out how to do a third-party lawsuit without a third-party statute," Pearson predicted.
Still, elder-law attorneys say there are factors that may prevent a rash of collection actions against the children of nursing-home residents:
- A potentially conflicting federal law. A federal Medicaid law prevents facilities from demanding that relatives act as "guarantors" before accepting a patient. The relatives' assets and income are not supposed to be considered in admission decisions. That would appear to conflict with nursing homes' attempts to collect from children of patients, even in states with filial-responsibility laws, said Harold Grodberg, an elder-law attorney in Clark, N.J.
- Nursing homes' self-interest. Howard Krooks, the president-elect of the elder-law attorneys' academy, has represented nursing homes and says they're typically sensitive to their reputation in the community. That tends to soften their collection efforts, he said. "If you consistently go after the offspring of your patients," said Krooks, who practices in Boca Raton, Fla., "you may find your beds are more available."
- A different interpretation of support. Filial-responsibility laws have traditionally been interpreted as requiring continuing monthly support, said Marielle Hazen, an elder-law attorney who practices in Harrisburg, Pa. "It shouldn't be used to get a lump sum settlement of a debt," Hazen said.
None of this has deterred collection attempts in Pennsylvania, which has what Krooks called "one of the most Draconian filial-responsibility laws in the country." Hazen said the Pittas case is far from isolated.
"This is not the only case where nursing homes have been successful," Hazen said. "Nursing homes are typically using it when there is a gap between private payment and eligibility for Medicaid."
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While I agree that we need to help our parents, this goes too far. I agree that those who've taken funds from their parents or cheated them on their home should pay, but should my retirement fund be wiped out because my father gambled his money away or never thought to save? If I have money but the siblings don't do I have to pay it all? I am 60 and my father is 84 and going strong. I've planned for my retirement and long term care and talked about his but can't make him do anything. If his money runs out, he should be able to qualify for Medicare.
On the other hand if I had millions and could afford it without jeopardizing my own long term needs, I would expect to.
I can see being held responsible if you were given large sums of money from your parents and shortly after they run out . But for those people who have no relationship or an abusive past relationship with their parents, this is a slap in the face.
I just lost my mom, I was trying to sell my house to help her, I left home at 16, and I contributed to her financially longer than she had raised me. I never held back and even sold things I had at discount whenever she needed anything. I was the first to show up in the morning and take her for breakfast, shopping, a ride out of the house. I helped her with her small company for over 35 years, so her and my younger sisters would be able to have what they needed first. I seldom took any small amount of money for it. I contributed despite my own physical limitations, my own injuries. I would do it again, I have no regrets anything for my mother, ......... now I'm glad I did.
OK- This is ridiculous. 90% of what is posted here is dating SPAM. Get rid of it! readers- mark it as spam. Spammers get lost!
Oh by th eway, in my prior post, I forgot to mention that we have paid for the insurance co-pays for short term nursing care for my husbands elderly mother. Cost us thousands. WIth four parents, we would have no money left for our own care and we have no children to take care of us. If I were a parent, I would not want to wipe out my childrens savings when my own ran out. No one would let their parents starve, which is I think the original intent of the laws applied, but othe than that, I don't think you can be responsible for the debts of your family members
People don't realize they need your money to support the wh ores who have multiple babies by multiple baby daddies who will reap all kinds of benefits and never have to be accountable for anything.
Medicaid will put a lein on your loved ones home at a rate of 50% of the taxable value if they are in a nursing home with medicaid benefits. Reward for doing well and trying to have something.
ok, i work in a nursing home in one of the above listed states. my job happens to be clinical reimbursement. we do not sue families for a patients stay. all patients are screened prior to admission, both medically and financially, but not their families. if a patient enters the facility and qualifies for medicare skilled services, medicare part A will pay for 100 days of the stay. medicare will pay 100% of the first 20 days and 80% of the remaining days as long as the patints is recieving skilled services. the 20% copay is paid generally by a patients secondary insurance. if a patient does not have a secondary insurance and meets the financial qualifications, we assit them with applying for medicaid to pay their copay. in many cases where someone does not have a secondary insurance and/or does not meet the financial criteria for medicaid, their copay is written off by the facility.
if a patient enters the facility under medical assistance, (ie:medicaid) they must meet certain medical and financial qualification before admission. the only time that a facility generally would pursue a family for payment is if the family agreed either to pay privately for a full stay or for a copay or if their was some sort of fraud involved.
unfortunately, many people do not see an elder care attorney to help them with this prior to the need for some type of long term care.
we dont know all the specifics of what was involved in this case. for instance, in my state to be eligible for long term care medicaid a patient must have under a certain amount of monthly income and assets. one of the rules for eligibility is if their is a home or large sum of money that was given to a child or family member it must be done more than 3 years prior to being eligible. someone cannot sign their house over to their son and expect for the state to pay for a nursing home a month later. if that was what occurred in this case, then i would agree the son is responsible. did the son sign a contract with the nursing home agreeing to pay for moms care privately? was there money or a house that was transferred to the sons name recently to hide the assets?did mom initially meet the clinical requirements for medicaid but as she got better with rehab no longer meet them and stay past the authorized days disputing the medicaid decision? the article states the woman left the country. was she not a US citizen? was she visiting from another country when she got sick and therefore not eligible for medicare or medical assistance? there are just a lot of variables here that we dont know.
as far as what jilly said, we do all of those things for our patients and more!! we work where we do with the geriatric population because we care!! ...and 12k a month??? seriously???
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