To Collect Debts, Nursing Homes Are Declaring People Incompetent

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Nursing home staff and physicians are increasingly using powerful guardianship laws to declare patients to be incompetent to make their own decisions, and then are using the powers to collect on disputed bills, reported the New York Times. Along the way, they often undermine the rights of patients’ own loved ones and caregivers as well.

“Few people are aware that a nursing home can take such a step,” reported the Times. “Guardianship cases are difficult to gain access to and poorly tracked by New York State courts; cases are often closed from public view for confidentiality. But the Palermo case is no aberration. Interviews with veterans of the system and a review of guardianship court data conducted by researchers at Hunter College at the request of the New York Times show the practice has become routine, underscoring the growing power nursing homes wield over residents and families amid changes in the financing of long-term care.”

“(Lawyers and others versed in the guardianship process agree that nursing homes primarily use such petitions as a means of bill collection — a purpose never intended by the Legislature when it enacted the guardianship statute in 1993,” stated the Times.

To Collect Debts, Nursing Homes Are Seizing Control Over Patients (New York Times, January 25, 2015)

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