A majority of states now have laws (called filial responsibility laws) that require adult children to financially support their parents. These laws make children responsible for providing basic necessities, such as food, shelter, and medical care, to parents who cannot afford them. Historically, enforcement of these laws has been rare, but changes to Medicaid laws and a recent Pennsylvania court case may encourage nursing homes to make use of filial responsibility laws or lobby for their enactment.
To address the booming demand for and rising costs of long-term care funded by Medicaid, the federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 made it more difficult to qualify for the program. This has resulted in more individuals in nursing homes being unable to pay for their care and has nursing homes looking for other ways to get their money.
A Pennsylvania court recently held that an adult son had to pay his mother’s $93,000 nursing home bill. The nursing home was able to sue the son under Pennsylvania’s filial responsibility statute, even though his mother had applied for Medicaid and was awaiting a decision. The court also found nothing wrong with the nursing home suing only the son without going after the mother’s husband or other adult children.
Florida does not currently have a filial responsibility statute, but that may change as Florida retirees, many of whom are living on Social Security income alone, age and require greater care. For information on which states do have filial responsibility laws, see this helpful chart provided by AARP: http://assets.aarp.org/www.aarp.org_/articles/bulletin/interactive/filialpiety/index.html