October Ombudsman Report - "Knowing Your Rights"

October is Residents' Rights Month - "Are Third Parties Responsible for Paying Nursing Homes?"

by Kathleen Heren, Rhode Island State Long-Term Care Ombudsman

Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. Ombudsman Report October
Kathleen Heren

Families and responsible parties are not responsible for bills incurred by their family members. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have issued a directive reminding facilities and debt collectors of their responsibilities under the Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA), Fair Debt Collections Practice Act (FDCPA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Let's translate that into plain English.

The NHRA prohibits nursing facilities from requesting or requiring a third-party guaranteed payment as a condition of admission. Contract language on admission that conflict with the NHRA is unlawful and cannot be enforced. There is a law in Rhode Island that allows nursing homes to bill a power of attorney for finances to be responsible for paying for the home when the resident can no longer be held responsible for the bill. Some nursing homes have created admission contracts that attempt to hold third parties responsible for a resident's death.

Connelly Law Offices. Ltd. Long-term care
Overwhelming emotions during Nursing Home admission

There are forty-eight million family members and friends caring for adults with health or functional needs in the United States. They hold no power of attorney or guardianship that require financial responsibilities. I am certainly not encouraging people not to execute legal documents for their residents but if that is not possible then they should be financially protected.

Families become so overwhelmed with the multitude of paperwork on admission, that many times they don’t read what they are signing. Then if the resident becomes unable to pay, the family or caregiver starts to receive harassing letters from debt collection agencies or attorneys hired by the facility under the Nursing Home Reform Act.

"Nursing facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid may not seek payments from a third party, which includes a family member or caregiver." ---Kathleen Heren

Nursing facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid may not seek payments from a third party, which includes a family member or caregiver. If you have experienced any unlawful billing practices, you should notify Medicare or Medicaid.

Let me again stress, that nursing homes have a right to be paid, they deliver expensive care. It’s the way they go about it that’s wrong. This directive was issued by Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, CMS Administrator, U.S. Department Of Health and Human Services, and Rohit Chopra, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. Long-Term Care

October is Residents’ Rights Month. This is an annual event designated by The National

Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care to honor residents living in all long-term care facilities and consumers receiving services in their homes or community. This year’s theme is “Reclaiming My Rights, My Home, My Life.” The theme focuses on raising awareness of federally mandated residents’ rights while also underscoring the need for dignity and self-determination of all residents.

For more information on how your facility can celebrate Residents’ Rights Month, you can visit The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care website;

As always please contact our office with any questions.


Kathleen Heren

Rhode Island State Long-Term Care Ombudsman

Office of the RI State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

Alliance for Better Long-Term Care Inc



Ms. Heren provides a monthly guest blog to Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. in which she discusses issues and topics that come across her desk as the Rhode Island State Long Term Care Ombudsman. The opinions expressed in our guest blogs are those of the author(s) only. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Attorney RJ Connelly III, or the employees of Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.

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