When a person is admitted to a nursing home, often a family member manages the move. If you manage the transition into a nursing home, you may be asked to sign a nursing home admission agreement as the “responsible party.” These agreements are thick, complicated, and confusing, and you are asked to sign them at the time of admission when you are under a great deal of stress. Don’t feel pressured to sign the agreement on the spot. Make sure you understand what you are signing. Don’t accidentally accept financial responsibility for your loved one’s care or give up any of his or her rights.
Federal law prohibits nursing homes from requiring you to guarantee payment of bills. You cannot be required to sign as responsible party and your loved one cannot be refused admission if you refuse. If possible, your loved one should sign the nursing home admissions agreement. If unable to sign, you may sign but only as an agent and not as a guarantor. And always take the time to make sure you understand what it means.
An admission agreement may require a responsible party to use the resident’s assets to pay the nursing home costs and qualify the resident for Medicaid. Nursing homes have successfully sued a responsible party arguing he or she breached the contract by failing to qualify the resident for Medicaid in a timely manner, unreasonably delaying the Medicaid application process, or improperly transferring assets.
Even if signing under a Power of Attorney, a court may find you are a responsible party. If you manage the financial affairs of a nursing home resident, familiarize yourself with the requirements for Medicaid. Consult an attorney with Medicaid experience so you do not unintentionally jeopardize the resident’s Medicaid eligibility and create liability for yourself.
Parman & Easterday