Many states have laws in place that make adult children responsible for paying for their parents’ medical care in certain circumstances. While these laws are not always (or even frequently) enforced, it is still worth understanding them to determine if you have any responsibility to pay nursing home bills on behalf of your elderly parents.
Here’s a quick overview of what you should know.
The idea of responsibility to pay for medical bills on behalf of your parents is called “filial responsibility.” Under these types of laws, an adult child would be responsible for parents’ medical care if the parent is unable to pay themselves. These rules do not, however, apply if the parent qualifies for Medicare, as the Medicare system would pay in that scenario. But if the parent cannot pay for the care received before they qualify for Medicare, the adult child (or children) could be required to pay instead.
The purpose behind these laws is to minimize the burden the parent places on the welfare system of the state. These laws also typically allow long-term care providers to sue family members for payment. In some rare circumstances, failure to care for a parent can even rise to the level of a criminal offense.
All this being said, rare is the case in which these laws are actually enforced. This is because most elderly people who are unable to pay for their medical care also receive federal assistance through Medicaid, and federal laws prohibit going after adult children (despite what state laws may say). In addition, people who need help paying for nursing home care are more likely to qualify for Medicaid, and it’s quite uncommon for people to rack up a major medical bill before they qualify for that assistance. This means there really aren’t many opportunities for these laws to be applied, so they will very rarely affect families.
Most of the time, for these laws to actually apply and for adult children to be held accountable for a parent’s bill, all of the following circumstances must exist:
- The care was provided to the parents in a state that has a filial responsibility law on the
- The parent does not have enough money to pay for their medical are
- The parent did not qualify for Medicaid at the time the care was provided
- The child is capable of paying the bill themselves
- The caregiver decides to file a lawsuit in accordance with the filial responsibility laws
For more information about the idea of filial responsibility and the potential that you will be held liable for your parents’ medical or nursing home bills, contact our skilled attorneys at Baker Law Group, PC.