Be Prepared: Do You Have to Pay Your Parents’ Nursing Home Bills?


You care about your parents and want them to enjoy the best care in their golden years. But as you help them look around for a nursing home that fits their needs, you also need to discuss who will be footing the bill. And it’s a hefty one.

According to Genworth, which surveys prices of nursing homes across all 50 states, the median cost of an assisted living facility in Pennsylvania is $4,100. It’s more than double that, $10,403, for a semi-private room in a nursing home facility — and upwards of $11,000 per month for a private room in a nursing home.

Pennsylvania is actually on the low end of the national average of $4,300 per month for assisted living facilities. Still, that’s a yearly bill of over $49,000, more than some people earn in a year. The thing is, you could be liable for that money in some situations.

Can a Long-Term Facility Bill You for Your Parents’ Care?

There is precedence for such a case. In 2012, a Pennsylvania man was ordered to pay a $93,000 bill for his mother’s nursing home bill. The order came under a filial support law that made it family members’ duty to provide financial assistance for those in their family who couldn’t pay for such care. In the case, the mother’s Medicaid application wasn’t approved in time to cover the bill, and after his mother moved to another country, the man was left to take care of it.

The nursing home had argued that his mother’s meager income, $1,000 per month from Social Security, made her indigent, which in turn kicked in the provisions of the law.

This was a case where the nursing home, after determining its large bill would not be paid, went after someone other than the patient to pay it. While the man appealed the decision, PA courts upheld the ruling. The precedent does pave the way for similar actions by nursing homes, though they also have to weigh the public relations disaster that could unfold if they choose this route.

Why Could a Nursing Home Demand Payment From a Child for Parents’ Care?

Experts have noted that Medicaid reimbursement rates have fallen. The result is that nursing homes now need to find other places to get their money — and most patients simply don’t have that means. That has led to new attention to alternative ways to get those bills paid.

Filial laws’ aim is to take some burden off the state. But the downside for some is that they could be on the hook for care they didn’t realize would be billed to them.

Does This Really Happen?

Luckily, this scenario seems more a possibility than an actuality. The Elder Care Research Organization has said it’s rarely seen this play out. And often, such a case involves criminal activity, which is the real spark for legal action.

Still, you should protect yourself when searching for care for your parents. Read contracts carefully, and don’t sign anything yourself as a co-signer unless you are prepared to step in should your parents be unable to foot the bill. Talk frankly with your parents and your siblings about finances and their long-term commitments.

One great option to prepare your parents for their later years is life event planning, which can address paying for long-term care. Contact Jay to learn more about the options.

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