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Will Your Kids End Up Paying Your Nursing Home Bill?

Updated: Oct 6, 2022

We talk a lot about the importance of finding ways to pay for long-term care. Many people don’t plan for their future elder care expenses the way they might for their retirement or for their children’s college education. Many people–especially middle and lower income people–assume that Medicaid will be there to pick up the nursing home tab.

And today, for many people, Medicaid is there to pick up the tab. But what happens if Medicaid goes away? If Medicaid doesn’t pay, what happens to all the older adults who don’t have the resources to pay for their own nursing home care? Who pays? Could adult children be forced to foot the bill?

As the annual cost of a private room in a nursing home passes the $100,000 per year mark for the first time ever (see the 2018 Genworth Cost of Care Study for all the gruesome details), a little-known legal doctrine called filial responsibility, is getting more attention. These laws, on the books in about half of the U.S. states, including Tennessee, could hold adult children responsible for the long-term care bills of parents or other family members.

An article that ran on in February explains how these obscure laws are being applied to long-term care costs. Some say it’s unfair and unjust to use these laws to force children to cover their parents’ costs. Others say it’s even less fair to pass these costs to the state (and ultimately, the taxpayers) in the form of Medicaid or other state payments.

With long-term care costs on the rise and funding for elderly care being cut, more healthcare providers are turning to the courts and filial responsibility laws to compel the children of their patients to help their parent financially or completely cover the cost of care. Recent court cases have held that filial responsibility laws are still valid, and that children can be sued to recover medical expenses.

The moral of the story is clear: the days of sticking your head in the sand and hoping that you’ll die peacefully in your sleep are over. You may be comfortable sticking Medicaid with your nursing home bill, but how would you feel about saddling your kids with it?

If you’re ready to start planning, Takacs McGinnis can help. Just give us a call at 615.824.2571.


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