Should I sign a payment agreement with my mother's rehab center?

1 answer | Last updated: Nov 24, 2016
Thegoat asked...

My 87-year-old mother is going to rehab before going home to her apartment. The rehab center wants me to sign for her, guaranteeing payment after Medicare stops paying the full amount in 21 days. She may be in for less time but possibly for five to six weeks, and the difference is $50 a day. My attorney told me not to sign anything and to tell the admissions that we will deal with that if and when she has to stay longer. He also told me to tell them that she will use her own funds (she has about $8,000) to start paying if necessary but that I should not sign anything because I don't know what else may be in store for me. Do you agree and will they still take her in rehab?

Expert Answers

Under federal law, it is almost certainly illegal for a rehab center to require, as a condition of admitting your mother, that you sign an agreement guaranteeing payment, or requiring you to become the responsible party for her bills. The federal Nursing Home Reform Law makes it unlawful to require that a family member or any other third party sign any financial guaranty before granting admission to a patient or resident. This applies to any facility that accepts Medicare or Medicaid payments, which this rehab facility does. Your lawyer can find this law in the United States Code at the following place: 42 U.S.C. sec. 1395i-3, 1396r and 42 C.F.R. sec. 483.12(d)(2).

The rehab center might try to wriggle out from under this law by claiming that it did not really require that you sign, but only asked you to sign voluntarily. Of course, this is a lot of baloney. Since the law does not allow them to require you to sign, there is no reason for you to sign supposedly voluntarily. The only reason for signing is that you were unaware of the law, and you felt pressured to sign in order to have them accept your mother for treatment. This means that if you did sign, the rehab center probably cannot enforce the guaranty in court. If you or your lawyer would like more information on this federal law, and on how to prevent the rehab center from collecting from you if you did sign the agreement, contact the non-profit organization National Senior Citizens Law Center, which does excellent work protecting nursing facility residents.