Fed up with elderly people who can’t pay their bills, it seems some nursing homes have shifted their collection policies towards patient’s relatives who may be in a better position to pay. Yes, that’s correct— some nursing homes have begun collection proceedings under various forms of ‘filial responsibility’ laws on the books in many states.
While the specifics of the filial responsibility laws will vary from state to state, the general principal is that the adult children may be looked toward to backstop the debt of an indigent parent.
Forbes reported a recent Pennsylvania court ruling that effectively deemed an adult son of a nursing home patient to be responsible for the $93,000 balance on his mother’s account. In addition to determining that a parent need not have completely exhausted their funds in order for a nursing home to pursue collection from a adult child, the court further ruled that the facility could arbitrarily pursue any family member that it wanted— so long as it could prove that the relative had the resources to pay.
Thankfully, Federal Law prohibits any type of collection proceedings directly from families in circumstances where a parent is already a Medicaide recipient. However, given the lengthy (and sometimes sudden need) application process, filial laws such as this expose an incredibly large demographic of adult children to a situation where they may face increased financial burden— without their knowledge.
While the origins of filial responsbility laws may be traced back to the middle ages, given the economics of long-term care today, shifting the financial burdern to an unsuspecting group is simply uncalled for.
Learn more about filial responsibility here:
Will Adult Children Have To Pay Mom’s Nursing Home Costs? by Howard Gleckman Forbes.com May 16, 2012