You could be forced to pay for your parents’ long term medical care costs if you live in a state with filial responsibility laws on the books. There are 30 states with laws which impose a duty on adult children to care for their indigent parents. If you’re like me, you probably didn’t realize that Georgia is one of those states. These laws have been infrequently enforced, but with a sputtering economy and continued budget shortfalls, medical providers are looking for ways to recover unpaid medical costs. Federal law prohibits states from going after families for reimbursement after someone is already eligible for Medicaid, so these laws only apply before people apply for Medicaid, but the results can be less than desirable for the adult children. In a Pennsylvania case, a woman spent six months in a nursing facility rehabilitating from an automobile accident. Her monthly income was about $1,000 which was far less than the cost of her long term medical care. She applied for Medicaid, but was discharged from the facility before her Medicaid application was processed. The nursing facility sued her son for the unpaid balance and the Pennsylvania courts held him responsible for payment of the bill.
In Georgia, the statue says:
§ 36-12-3 – Requirement of support by family of pauper; action by county against family for reimbursement of provisions furnished
The father, mother, or child of any pauper contemplated by Code Section 36-12-2, if sufficiently able, shall support the pauper. Any county having provided for such pauper upon the failure of such relatives to do so may bring an action against such relatives of full age and recover for the provisions so furnished. The certificate of the judge of the probate court that the person was poor and was unable to sustain himself and that he was maintained at the expense of the county shall be presumptive evidence of such maintenance and the costs thereof.
There are currently no published cases which show this statute being enforced, but perhaps with the current economic climate, this may become an issue for families in Georgia.