A Nursing Home Is Trying To Make Me Pay for Someone’s CarePosted on: August 31, 2022
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Why am I being billed for some else’s care?
Sometimes a nursing home asks family members to pay for the care of a relative in the nursing home. This can happen if your family member went to live in something called a “skilled nursing facility” or a “long-term care nursing facility.”
You or someone else may have signed papers to get someone into the nursing home. These papers may have been something called an “admission agreement.” These papers may have been called a “” Long Term Care (“LTC”) Medicaid Application.”
If you signed papers like this, get a copy. Read the papers. Keep them in a safe place for your records.
What is the law that deals with a nursing home that tries to get me to pay for the care of someone in the home?
More than one law covers this kind of debt.
One of the laws is the federal Nursing Home Reform Act. That law says that the nursing home cannot make someone else agree to pay the bill for someone get into a nursing home. Another way to say this is that the nursing home cannot force you to be a co-signer for the nursing home bill.
This will not protect you if you are married to the person in the nursing home. Louisiana is a “community property” state. This makes the husband and the wife responsible for a debt that happens during the marriage.
What if I am sued on someone else’s nursing home bill?
It is best if you can find a lawyer right away if you are sued.
There are important deadlines for taking legal steps to fight a lawsuit. If you do not reply on time, the other side may get the court to rule against you. This is called a “default judgment” It can be very hard or impossible to undo that kind of court judgment.
Do not let a court deadline or time limit go by! There is a form you can use to try to get the court to give you more time to reply to the lawsuit in court.
Even if you file this form try to get legal help right away. It is best to have a lawyer if you need to file court papers to fight the suit. Without a lawyer you may miss something in the suit you need to deny, reply to. You might also miss out on raising important defenses that can be lost unless filed with or before your Answer.
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services may be able to give free legal help. For how to contact us, see https://slls.org/get-help/client-services/
What if I did sign something saying I would “be responsible for” the bill?
In some cases, the nursing home might not be able to make you do the things listed in the papers you signed. The Nursing Home Reform Law makes it illegal for a nursing home to demand that you sign an agreement to pay the bill to get the nursing home to admit your loved one. There could be other reasons why something you signed at other times might not be valid.
You might have had control of the nursing home resident’s check, bank accounts, stocks, or other things, as co-owner. You might have had control of what the nursing home resident owned through a power of attorney. Or the resident may have died and you inherited from them.
Because you had control over the resident’s assets, you can be liable for the bill, up to the amount of those assets.
What is a responsible party clause?
If you held a power of attorney for the person in the nursing home or if you signed the Admission Agreement as a “responsible party” for the resident, the nursing home may treat you as the one who is responsible for taking care of the bill. The Nursing Home Reform Law does not allow nursing homes to demand third party financial guarantees as co-signer. On the other hand, the law allows nursing homes to use “responsible party clauses. This kind of agreement would make you liable to the extent you have or had control of the resident’s finances.
Here is what a “responsible party clause” might look like:
“By signing this, you agree to 1) use the resident’s money to pay nursing facility expenses, and 2) take all necessary steps to obtain Medicaid coverage.”
Some “responsible party clauses” may also say things like “If you fail to do this, you may be held personally liable for damages, including attorney’s fees and court costs including attorney’s fees and court costs.”
Be sure to read all papers before you sign. Make sure you are not signing anything that says you agree to pay any debt or bill that is more than any of the resident’s finances that you control.
Some courts have upheld contracts even though they have terms that seem illegal under the federal Nursing Home Reform Law.
Why else might I be sued or threatened?
You may also be contacted because you are someone who knows about the resident’s finances. Nursing homes sometimes use lawsuits a to pressure resident’s family members even though they are not responsible for the debts.
What is the Admission Agreement?
This is the contract for services between the resident and the nursing home. Read this carefully. Look at the terms of the contract regarding financial liability very closely. Ask questions. Ask the nursing home about any financial obligations that you could have.
Compare what they say to what is in the papers you are signing.
Do not just take the nursing home’s word.
Look in the papers for words such as “liable” “damages” “attorney fees.”
Keep copies of everything that you sign.
Ask for a copy of the facility’s admission agreement as soon as you are aware your loved one may be placed there. Do this before you sign anything. Take time to review the papers or have an attorney explain them to you.
If I did sign as a responsible party, do I still owe these debts?
If you voluntarily signed the admission agreement as a responsible party then you must give a good faith effort to use the resident’s resources to pay the bills.
Responsible parties are usually in charge of gathering all the nursing resident’s financial resources they can to make them available to the pay the nursing facility.
Responsible parties also usually submit information and documents requested by Medicaid should their loved one require assistance to pay the long-term care bills.
If you do not send information on time to Medicaid or if you do not use the resident’s money to pay for nursing home care, you could find yourself liable for a hefty bill.
If you or someone else inherit from a resident’s estate, that estate can be charged for unpaid nursing bills.
Likewise, after the death of a person, the state may seek recovery of facility bills Medicaid paid, from the estate of the resident.
You are only liable to the extent you receive assets of the dead person’s estate. There can be important exceptions making you owe less.