Children, Parents and Nursing Homes

Children, Parents and Nursing Homes

Children, Parents and Nursing Homes

Pennsylvania, like 28 other states, has a "filial support" or "filial responsibility" law, which is a concept used to describe an adult child's obligation to a parent. 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 4603 provides the following: (a) Liability. (1) Except as set forth in paragraph (2), all of the following individuals have the responsibility to care for and maintain or financially assist an indigent person, regardless of whether the indigent person is a public charge: (i) The spouse of the indigent person. (ii) A child of the indigent person. (iii) A parent of the indigent person. (2) Paragraph (1) does not apply in any of the following cases: (i) If an individual does not have sufficient financial ability to support the indigent person. (ii) A child shall not be liable for the support of a parent who abandoned the child and persisted in the abandonment for a period of ten years during the child's minority. In 2009, a Pennsylvania woman was stunned to learn that a nursing home was suing her for more than $300,000 in unpaid bills related to her father, who died after spending about a year in the home, and her mother, a dementia patient still living there.  "I was devastated," August said. "We're living basically paycheck to paycheck. We don't try to live beyond our means -- it was just unbelievable that all of a sudden there was this debt hanging over us." August said that both she and her husband work two jobs each to make ends meet for themselves and their two children. She loves her parents, she said, and did what she could to help them. But footing their bills was out of the question.  "I don't think anybody should be responsible for someone else's bill," she said. "You can only do so much."  Fortunately, the court found that August did not have sufficient financial ability to support her father. In 2012, the Pennsylvania Superior Court examined 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 4603 in the case of Health Care & Retirement Corp. of America (HCR) v. Pittas.  In this case, Mr. Pittas’ mother was injured in a car accident and was transferred to HCR for skilled nursing services.  She resided there from September 2007 to March 2008 before relocating to Greece to live with her two other children.  During this period of time, Mrs. Pittas applied for medical assistance, which was initially denied. Accordingly, HCR never received payment for services rendered. Therefore, HCR elected to sue Mr. Pittas and use 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 4603 as a vehicle to recover approximately $93,000 in accounts receivable.  At the time of the lawsuit, Mrs. Pittas was in the process of appealing the PA Department of Welfare’s decision to deny her medical assistance.  Mr. Pittas argued that the lawsuit was premature since the PA Department of Welfare had not yet ruled on Mrs. Pittas’ appeal, but the court did not find prejudice to Mr. Pittas, since Mr. Pittas admitted that “if his mother were to win her appeal and receive medical assistance, those funds will be used to relieve him of liability.”  Ultimately, the Pennsylvania courts determined that Mr. Pittas had the ability to pay for his “indigent” mother.  The restaurant owner said he was "in shock" and "devastated" at the ruling and filed to re-argue his case with the Superior Court on Monday.  "I have a business and family. My wife was pregnant with the second child at the time," Pittas said. "The economy is not what it used to be. I'm very worried about this and stressed." The moral of the story is that children of adult parents should assist their parents in acquiring medical assistance, and in many circumstances, it may prove beneficial to consult with an attorney.