NPR recently covered a story about nursing nomes attempting to collect bills from friends and families of patients when there was no legal obligation on the part of the friends and families. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/07/28/1113134049/nursing-homes-are-suing-friends-and-family-to-collect-on-patients-bills
A Nursing Home sued the sister of a patient claiming she owed money on behalf of her brother. They tried to get her for his $8,000 bill even though she didn’t have control over his finances. She finds out that she is not the only person to whom this happened. It is common practice for nursing homes to sue residents’ friends and family members to collect money for unpaid bills. The nursing home resident was the woman’s brother in the original story. The brother was admitted into the county nursing home after a hospital stay. She had visited him a few times, and no one ever spoke to her about billing or asked her to sign anything. Then about a year later, she was hit with the $8,000 bill.
The article also states that
1 in 7 adults with health care debt comes into contact with debt collectors. The nursing home industry has found a way around federal laws that protect people from debt collection. Federal law says that nursing homes cannot go after relatives for residents’ debts. However, the nursing homes slip in wordage in the admissions agreements to keep them on the hook. Nursing homes are getting very aggressive in their tactics to collect on these debts.
Some of the tactics of these nursing homes are to accuse relatives of hiding money and assets, many times without any proof. The nursing homes call this “fraudulent conveyance.” The nursing homes claim that the relatives should be using the resident’s assets to pay the debt when many of the relatives sued did not have any power of attorney over the resident. Many cases brought on this basis are dismissed due to lack of evidence. Nursing homes also tend to go after adult children because they are more likely to have assets or wages that nursing homes can garnish.
Many people are severely affected by these lawsuits because they are under the impression that they will lose nearly everything if they cannot pay these debts. Many attorneys have said that people in these positions cannot afford a lawyer and get taken advantage of in the process. The article says that about one-third of the nursing homes win default judgments because the defendants never respond, which is common in debt collection cases.
These nursing homes are preying on vulnerable individuals and their family members. If you or your family experiences this kind of debt collection, please contact an Elder Law Lawyer.
I am a member of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys. They have a national database of lawyers who can help you. https://www.naela.org/findlawyer