Nursing Home: If your parent needs one, will you have to pay the bill?

This is a true and shocking story.  John Pittas was ordered by a Pennsylvania court to pay his mother’s $92,943.41 nursing home bill under a filial support law.  The filial support law states that certain family members are liable for the care, maintenance and financial support of some other indigent members of that family.  It’s a law that’s been around since colonial times in one form or another.  Several states have abolished it but 29 have not.

John’s mother entered the Liberty Nursing Rehabilitation Center in Allentown, PA and spent about six months there after breaking two legs in an auto accident in September 2007. 

In March 2008, his mother, who was born in the United States, relocated to Greece where two other children live.

As the only family member still living in this country, Pittas was sued for payment of the huge bill.  The owners of the nursing home sued him for the money and a 2011 court trial was decided in the nursing home’s favor.

If his mother’s Medicaid application had been approved prior to the accident, this never would have happened.  Medicaid would have paid.  Last year, Pittas appealed but the Superior Court of Pennsylvania once again ruled in favor of the nursing home.

If you have an aging parent who may one day need nursing home care, what can you do to avoid having the same problem as John Pittas?

1) Talk with your parent about his or her financial resources.  If your parent is reluctant to have this discussion, relate John Pittas’ story.  It’s better to have a plan prior to an accident or other health crisis.

2) If your parent has limited resources, find out whether that parent is eligible for Medicaid.   If so, get your parent to apply immediately so that it will be available when needed.

3) If your parent is not eligible, sit down with all the members of your immediate family and talk about which family members can provide care or financial aid in case it is needed.

Don’t delay.  Put a plan in place today so that you won’t suddenly receive an unexpected bill for $93,000 or more.

For more information about planning for long term care and Medicaid, go to www.diesmart.com.

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