If my mom should pass away in a nursing home while waiting for medical approval, do we owe the nursing homes charges?

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the nursing home said they wait medical approval before charging us

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You would be well served by talking with an elder law attorney in your state who is able to help you determine whether your mom was eligibility for Medicare (was she discharged from a hospital to the nursing facility?), and/or prepare the application and supporting information needed to qualify her for Medicaid coverage.

Completing the Medicaid application properly can save time and expense for you, and the nursing home business office. If your Mom was eligible for Medicaid, the nursing home can be reimbursed by Medicaid. Otherwise, assets remaining in your Mom's estate must be used to pay for the care. The elder law attorney can help you properly calculate and report any estate administration expenses that have priority in settling your Mom's estate.

Federal Medicare and Medicaid law says that family members cannot be required to sign as a “Responsible Party” for payment of nursing home care costs. 42 USC §1396r(c)(5)(A)(ii). Some facilities have asked family members to “volunteer” to act as a responsible party. The federal law says: “a nursing facility must (ii) not require a third party guarantee of payment to the facility as a condition of admission (or expedited admission) to, or continued stay in, the facility.”

To read the nursing home law:
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/42/1396r

Scroll down to §1396r(c)(5)(A)(ii)

There are also state laws and regulations the prohibit a facility from requiring a resident to provide a third party guarantee of payment to the facility. Example from my state, Massachusetts:
http://www.mass.gov/ago/docs/regulations/940-cmr-4-00.pdf
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Medicare will most likely cover it, but if not, if you didn't' sign anything making you responsible for your mom's bills, you shouldn't be responsible. If you did sign something, you might be held responsible for all or part of the bill and might want to consult an attorney.
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You would only be responsible if you willingly agreed to cover those charges for her. As long as you didn't sign anything, you should be fine.

* The way some paperwork is written, you could unknowingly sign something you don't understand, so make sure you understand whatever you're signing before ever signing it. This is why you should always read very carefully before ever signing any paper, because Once you sign, you agree to whatever the terms are
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Listen to the people who suggested calling an attorney. For the four months my husband was in a nursing home before he died, I was not notified that his Medicaid pending benefits had been approved. I knew only that the nursing home was receiving his Social Security check by direct deposit, and that I could no longer care for him. I lived under great tension. I was afraid to ask the nursing home. Don't accept the nursing home's verbal statements. Invest in consulting an attorney who specializes in elder affairs.
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Children are not responsible for parents debts unless you have signed something. If u are talking Medicaid, it may be retro from when she applied. Don't let them tell u otherwise.
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John L. Roberts -- Thank you for stating "The federal law says: “a nursing facility must (ii) not require a third party guarantee of payment to the facility as a condition of admission (or expedited admission) to, or continued stay in, the facility.” What would you have advised me to do when the administer of a nursing home asked me to sign a guarantee of payment to the nursing home to which he was admitted? I signed against my will, and Medicaid kicked in, but I worried until it did. I'm 84, and seek your advice so I can tell my son about it in case he ever has to admit me to a nursing home.
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If she was sent to the nursing home after at least a 3-night hospital stay, perhaps Medicare would pay for at least a part of it.
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Instead of worrying about something that has not happened yet, just wait for approval. If and when she dies, the nursing home will expect to be paid by either Medicare/Medicaid or you depending on when.
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Unless you signed something, you would only be responsible if you lived in a State that had a Filial Responsibility Law and your mom's estate did not have the money to pay the bill and medicare refused to pay and the NH felt you did have enough to pay it and therefor decided to sue. Then it would be up to the courts.
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What are y'all thinking? If I had to sign away my left arm to get a parent care, I'd do it. I think the quwstuon is, will medicaicare continue the process of seeking funds even once the recipient has died. I think several people implied yes.
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