HomeCaregivingAre You On The Hook For Mom’s Nursing-Home Bill?

Are You On The Hook For Mom’s Nursing-Home Bill?

On the hook for surprise nursinh home bills?
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Are You On The Hook For Mom’s Nursing-Home Bill?

Attention! A judge ruled in May of 2012 that a Pennsylvania nursing home could collect an unpaid bill of $92,943 from the son of a patient who received care at their facility.

Yikes!!! Everyone knows that parents have an obligation to support dependent children. But, did you know that some states require adult children to support their parents under some circumstances?

Most adult children do not think about the fact that they could be held responsible for a parent’s nursing-home care bills. In fact, twenty-nine states have “filial support” laws that could be used to go after patients’ adult children for unpaid long-term-care bills.

Based on England’s Poor Law Act of 1601, the filial support laws originally held that the father, grandfather, mother, grandmother and children of “every poor, old, blind, lame and impotent person” had to step up and support their indigent relative to the extent of their ability.

Today, with skyrocketing costs of care, and increased longevity, healthcare providers are becoming more desperate for payment from overstretched Medicaid programs. Consequently, the use of filial support laws prods families into either paying their parent’s bills or completing Medicaid paperwork in their behalf. (Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people, has always excluded children’s income and assets when considering an older adult’s eligibility.)

Nursing homes have to get paid like everybody else, and if there’s a law on the books that can be used to get paid, they will use it.

Who sues who? Here’s where it gets interesting: A parent can sue an adult child; county and medical providers can also file a claim; and brothers and sisters who are pitted against each other are known to sue their siblings. Living out of state is no protection against a lawsuit

Is anyone immune?  Adult children financially strapped may not be required to support their parents. Children who were abandoned or treated cruelly by their parent may also be off the hook.  Each case is individually decided by the court.

In the meantime, aren’t we family members already doing enough? Plenty of sons and daughters are stepping up to plate and spending their own hard-earned dollars to help care for Mom and Dad. Many even quit their jobs because of caregiving, and it can be especially difficult if you are an only child caregiving for your aging parents.

Do filial support laws take “honor thy father and mother” too far? Let this be a warning to adult children whose parents are racking up nursing-home bills.

This is all the more reason for you to take action and start talking about money now:

  • Do you know if your parents are financially strapped?
  • Gather financial advisors: Elder-law attorney and certified financial planner
  • Get estate planning papers in order – yours and your parents
  • Know how Medicaid works and start planning ahead
  • Consider long-term-care insurance
  • Work with the nursing home to understand options and responsibilities

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Joy Loverde is the author of the best-seller, The Complete Eldercare Planner (Random House, 2009) and Who Will Take Care Of Me When I Am Old? (Da Capo, 2017). Joy’s media credits include the Today Show, CBS Early Show, CNN, and National Public Radio among many others. Joy also serves as a mature-market consultant and spokesperson for manufacturers, corporations, law firms, financial institutions, insurance, associations, healthcare organizations, senior housing, and other members of the fast-growing eldercare industry.

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