Thursday, May 17, 2012
Filial responsibility statutes impose duties on adult children to care for their indigent parents. Pennsylvania is one of thirty states that have these statutes, and it allows long-term care providers to sue family members for unpaid costs. The rules vary widely between the states, but most will take the child’s ability to pay into account. Additionally, federal law prohibits states from going after families if the elder is already eligible for Medicaid long-term care benefits, so these laws cannot apply once people enroll in Medicaid
In Pennsylvania, a woman spent six months in a nursing facility while she was recovering from a car accident. She left the facility while her Medicaid application was pending. The nursing facility then sued her son for the unpaid bill. He argued that she was not indigent because she had some income, and even if she could be considered indigent, other family members should share the burden with him.
The Pennsylvania state court of appeals ruled that the elder does not have to be indigent to go after the family members. Furthermore, the facility could go after any relative it wanted to, as long as the relative could pay. The son is now responsible for the unpaid $93,000 bill.
See Howard Gleckman, Will Adult Children Have to Pay Mom’s Nursing Home Costs?, Forbes, May 16, 2012.
Special thanks to Janet Novack (Washington Bureau Chief, Executive Editor) for bringing this article to my attention.