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When Can an Adult Child Be Liable for a Parent’s Nursing Home Bill?

Oct. 2, 2018

Under Pennsylvania law, technically children and third parties cannot be made liable to pay medical or nursing home expenses. However, all too often when an elder law attorney is not consulted, the elderly patient's children often wind up with a bill.

Since this is a common circumstance, elder law attorneys in Pittsburgh are prepared and knowledgeable when it comes to admission contracts, obligations of admissions to a nursing facility, and the patients and care giver's rights and obligations when being admitted to a hospital or emergency room.

Nursing Home Federal Regulations

Under the Federal Statute, nursing home facilities and hospitals are forbidden from requiring a third party to be responsible and personally liable financially as a condition of the admission to the nursing facility or hospital.

Now, just because it is a federal law does not mean that all nursing homes and hospitals follow this regulation. That is why a consult with an elder law attorney is essential when you are caring for a loved one that is at risk of eventually being admitted to a hospital or becoming a resident of a nursing facility. An elder law attorney will be able to properly inspect any and all contracts pertaining to admissions, as well as prepare you for language to be aware of for future admissions.

"Responsible Party"

In many nursing home and hospital admittance papers, there is a form where the patient names a "responsible party", which then requires the caregivers' signature. Caregivers are usually children of the elderly patient and are happy to sign where they are requested in order to get the best care for their loved ones. However, this is a violation of federal law, and an elder law attorney would advise you not to sign as a "responsible party".

As previously mentioned, the responsible party typically becomes the child of the patient and signs a form agreeing to the arrangement in the admissions paperwork. Nursing facilities and hospitals take overwhelming numbers of precautions to ensure that payments are met. As a result, adult children end up liable for more financial responsibility then they had hoped.

Filial Responsibility

Although nursing homes and hospitals are federally barred from requiring a third party to be financially responsible for the cost of care, there is a set of laws in Pennsylvania that nursing homes are able to use in order to seek payment from adult children of their patient.

The "Filial Responsibility" laws state that adult children are obligated to provide food, shelter, clothing, and medical care and attention to their indigent parents. Many elder law attorneys have extensive experience due to Pennsylvania aggressively enforcing these laws.

Under these statutes, adult children are required to do everything in their power to make sure that medical payments and other necessary expenses are paid and kept up to date. This requirement includes applying for Medicaid for their parent so medical bills are covered as much as possible.

There have been several cases where nursing homes have sued adult children of patients because the adult children failed to apply for Medicaid for their patient parent. If this occurs, you must immediately seek out an elder law attorney to preserve your rights and properly represent your position. In addition, a nursing facility can also file a case against adult children where the patient parent's funds are mishandled in such a way that the nursing facility bills are not paid.

Caring for an elderly parent is heartbreaking and overwhelming enough, to pile more potential stress on the backs of caring and giving adult children doesn't seem fair. Elder law attorneys are experts at helping you through difficult times with your elderly parent as well as helping you prepare so that you can avoid those difficult times as much as possible.

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NOTE: This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.