Responsible Parties

A responsible party is any person who is responsible for paying bills or fees from nursing homes or other facilities. When it comes to giving care to our elderly friends and loved ones, it’s important to remember that the elder him or herself should be his or her own responsible party when it comes time to sign any paperwork. This is regardless of whether or not you have been assigned Power of Attorney, and it’ll save everyone a lot of grief if the senior can sign their own paperwork, if possible. However,  issues can arise when the elderly person isn’t able to sign on their own- so what happens then?

As you know, there are a lot of forms that you’ll go through when your parent or other family member is in the process of being admitted for medical care, and it’s essential that you are able to understand the differences and what you need to watch out for. There’s a form that gives permission for the medical staff to treat your parent—you should probably sign it because without a signature, the medical staff can’t begin treatment and this could delay much-needed care.

A lot of forms will clearly state that the person signing the document is the one to be held financially responsible for bills. It’s crucial that you not sign anywhere that would have you personally accept financial responsibility for your parents’ bills. For the record, facilities and administrators cannot make you sign anything on behalf of your parents. They may have some nasty techniques to try and intimidate you, but their lack of payment is their problem, not yours.

For those who are admitted to a facility directly from the hospital, you should know that the nursing home can’t force you to accept financial responsibility when the patient is already there; the reason being that they can’t kick someone out without them having somewhere that is both safe and will meet their needs. If a patient isn’t physically or mentally able to consent to a transfer, they can’t be kicked out.

If the family of a patient has given all financial information in good faith and has done everything according to the Medicaid application process, it’s really hard for a facility to force a family to pay for placement, unless they have personally guaranteed to pay for the patient’s bills if Medicaid isn’t approved. If the relative doesn’t sign the patient into the facility, it may appear that they cannot be held legally responsible for bills. However, the facility can attempt to force payment by taking the family to court, but “responsible relative laws” are rarely enforced. The facility would need to prove negligence, plus taking someone to court is really expensive. However, if you have any questions or find yourself in a similar situation, you should consult with an elder law attorney.

What it all boils down to is this: make sure you understand what you’re potentially signing before you sign it. Remember that a facility cannot hold you as the responsible party if you don’t sign a document that would make you financially responsible.