Nursing home debts (or alleged debts) are subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act just like other debts.
Is that nursing home debt valid?
No patient’s admission or continued stay can be conditioned on a family or other guaranty of payment. Yet all too many nursing home “resident’s agreements”, those 30-50 pages thrust under the nose of a family member, ask for a signature as a “responsible party.” This makes the signer responsible for the bill. We may be in a hurry, but should take time to cross out that phrase. If one is truly needed, it should be “DPOA agent.” Under the Nursing Home Reform Act, even requesting a third-party guaranty of payment is illegal.
A nursing home can require a resident’s legal representative who has legal access to a resident’s available income of resources to sign a contract to provide payment from these on the resident’s behalf. But whether that legal representative is a spouse, the agent under a Durable Power of Attorney or the Guardian or Conservator, that person has no personal financial liability.
The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau is among the federal and state agencies responsible for enforcing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, both of which may be violated by nursing homes which seek to collect residents’ unpaid balances from others, often after debt or discharge.
If a nursing home or debt collector claims that you owe for someone else’s stay, do not take them at their word. Ask to be sent a detailed bill. Forward it to the Texas State Long-Term Care Ombudsman and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.
Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.