A recent Forbes article caught my attention. It’s titled “Son Hit With Aging Parent’s $93K Nursing Home Bill.”
In this article we’re introduced to John Pittas and his mother. You can click the link above to read the entire article, but to summarize the story, John’s Mom was in a nursing home and racked up a $93,000 bill. Apparently, she got out of the nursing home and left the country leaving the bill unpaid. However, she did apply for Medicaid to cover the bill which it normally would in the event that she wasn’t able to.
Unfortunately for her son, John, the Medicaid application wasn’t approved quickly enough to cover the bill, so the nursing home went after him to cover his Mom’s bill.
At this point, you’re probably thinking the same thing I was . . . there’s no way this woman’s son can be on the hook for her medical care. But upon reading further, I learned otherwise.
Turns out John and the nursing home are in Pennsylvania which is one of 29 states with something called the “filial responsibility law.” This law says that the immediate family of a needy adult is responsible for taking care of them. You’ve probably never heard of this law because it’s rarely enforced.
In this instance, however, the nursing home did invoke the law and sued John for $93,000. And the trial court ruled in favor of the nursing home. Even after John Pittas appealed the decision and asked why his Mom’s husband or other adult children we’re being pursued to cover the bill, he was still assigned sole responsibility for the entire $93,000 expense. The appeals court ruled that the nursing home didn’t have to wait to get its expenses covered through Medicaid and that it could choose any family member it wanted to pursue for payment.
Could This Happen To You?I’d love to tell you this is an extreme case and you shouldn’t lose sleep over it, but if you’re in one of the 29 states with this law, consider yourself warned. The filial responsibility states include Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Georgia – one of the states listed above – is my home, and is also home to many of my clients. So whether you’re in Georgia, Pennsylvania or one of the other states with this law, I would encourage you and your parents to plan ahead for long term care costs. This might involve long term care insurance or other strategies to plan for the expenses associated with a nursing home or other long term care needs.
Please contact me if you’d like to discuss your situation so we can make sure you’re not unprepared for a surprise $93,000 nursing home bill.
Also, my friend and fellow blogger JLP of AllFinancialMatters.com recently posted about this same article and has stirred up an interesting conversation in his post’s comments. You might want to check it out for some more perspective on this.
And finally, here’s a more recent article about the same story from Business Insider. It reveals a few more details surrounding this family’s situation.
This article does not constitute a personal recommendation or take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situations or needs of individual clients. It is intended for illustrative, educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should contact a legal professional for advice. Illustrative data used in this article is from sources believed reliable but not verified independently. Wealthcare Capital Management’s disclosure document ADV Part 2A can be found here.