Recent developments in the area of filial support law have the potential of affecting how families budget for nursing home costs. Currently, 29 states (not including Illinois) have what are called filial support laws on the books. Filial support laws are put in place in order to require certain family members of an indigent elderly person to provide financial assistance for his or her unpaid care. These laws have various levels of requirements depending upon the state that you are in. A recent law review article by law professor Katherine C. Pearson, which was published in the Spring 2013 edition of the University of Illinois Law School's Elder Law Journal, took an in-depth look at some of the states where these laws are taking a more prominent role in nursing home funding.
One of the cases that Pearson looked at was the Pennsylvania HCRA v. Pittas case. In September of 2007, John Pittas' (who was the appellant) mother was admitted to an HCR facility for skilled nursing care and treatment where she resided and was treated until March of 2008. In March of 2008, Pittas' mother relocated to Greece. A large portion of her bill at the HCR facility went unpaid and, as a result, HCR sued Pittas for $93,000 under the state's filial responsibility law. After a three-day trial, the trial court ruled against Mr. Pittas in the amount of $92,943.41. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed this ruling and refused to consider imposing joint responsibility on his mother's husband or her two other adult children.
In a recent article reacting to this decision in the Southern Illinoisan Business Journal by Richard Habiger, he states that "[w]ithout proper planning by both parents and children, and without legal advice from an experienced elder law attorney, children may very well be on the hook for thousands of dollars of care required by their aging parents." Although there are no filial support laws currently on the Illinois books, there are some experts, like Professor Pearson, who believe that more states may adopt similar laws in the upcoming years. This puts a premium on making sure that families plan for the costs of nursing home care in advance of admitting their loved ones into a long-term care facility.
Professor Pearson concluded her article with this theory on where legislation may be heading "It seems reasonable to conclude that when a nation is both willing and financially able to provide adequate public support to assist poor elders, filial support laws are less important and less frequently used. In the United States, when the federal government was willing to fully fund Medicare and Medicaid for elders' health care and long-term care in nursing homes, federal policies led states to repeal or limit the use of filial support laws to mandate financial support for parents by their adult children. However, as the large demographic cohort of baby boomers ages, thus increasing the likelihood of costly health care and long-term care, there may be heightened interest among the U.S. states in using filial support laws against adult children." Our office encourages you and your family to take the necessary steps to plan for nursing home care costs so that you will not have to worry about the effects of this potentially growing area of law. This may very well include seeking legal counsel for advice on how best to plan for funding, and how current state or federal law could affect your family's liability for the costs of long term care.
If you or someone you love has been injured, neglected, or abused in a nursing home at the hands of nursing home caretakers, please contact Ed Fox & Associates today.