Ohio Court Finds that an Agent using a Power of Attorney is not Personally Liable for cost of a Nursing Home
Thanks to Professor Katherine Pearson of Dickinson Law School for bringing this case to our attention.
On May 1, 2023, an appellate court in Ohio found that the daughter's role as agent acting under a power of attorney prevented her from becoming personally liable for her mother's costs of care. The daughter appears to have properly cooperated or assisted in the original Medicaid application.
The daughter gave authority to the nursing home to debit the bank account where her mother's Social Security checks were deposited every month, in order to pay itself the "patient pay" of her monthly income for the cost of care. This is the income a resident of a nursing home who is receiving Medicaid has to contribute to be otherwise eligible for Medicaid. However, the Social Security deposits made into the mother’s bank account eventually exceeded the $2,000 limit and the state Medicaid office terminated benefit to the mother without giving notice of the reason. Thus the nursing home appears to have had at least the same ability as the daughter to avoid accumulation of a sum greater than $2,000. The court pointed to the failure of the state agency to give effective notice to interested parties about when and why it was terminating Medicaid. See National Church Residences First Community Village v. Kessler, 2023 WL 3162188 (Ohio Ct. App. 2023).
The nursing home sued the daughter-agent for $42,000.00. The court ruled that the daughter acting as agent had no personal liability for the deficiency. Additionally, there was no evidence that the daughter as agent breached any agreement with the nursing home.
The court also noted that the Nursing Home Reform Act is Congress’s intended scheme to protect nursing home resident and their families. Feder law bars nursing homes which accept either Medicaid or Medicare from compelling guarantees from third parties such as family members. National Church Residences at p. 20.
Bottom line? Family members attempting to help an elder or disabled person get proper care are well-advised to consult with an experienced elder law attorney early in the process about how to qualify and protect eligibility for Medicaid.