Pennsylvania’s filial support law can make children financially responsible for their aging parents care costs. The law allows nursing homes and other care providers to sue children to recover unpaid care related expenses. It also allows for lawsuits by the state Department of Human Services.
Nursing homes, in particular, have been using the law to sue children for their parent’s unpaid bills. For example, in the recent case of HCRA v. Pittas a son was held liable for over $92,000 of his mother’s past due nursing home bills. The son was not accused of any wrongdoing. The son was held liable for the debt solely because he was his mother’s son and had some ability to pay.
Current Pennsylvania law provides that children have the responsibility to care for and maintain or financially assist their indigent parent. 23 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 4601-4606. Likewise, parents have the responsibility to care for and maintain or financially assist their indigent adult children. This is sometimes referred to as “filial support.” The word “filial” means “pertaining to, or befitting a son or daughter.”
Pennsylvania’s filial support law has been criticized as being a vestige of colonial era poor laws that should have no place in our present society. Many see the law as being fundamentally unfair and counterproductive. It does not support older adults. It is injurious to family relationships and may lead to the denial of needed care.
A bill has been introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to totally repeal Pennsylvania’s filial support law. HB 242 (2015) was introduced by Representative Anthony DeLuca with bipartisan co-sponsorship by the following Representatives: THOMAS, LONGIETTI, D.COSTA, DUNBAR, SCHLOSSBERG, KOTIK, McNEILL, GAINEY, D. MILLER, COHEN, GIBBONS and WATSON.
On January 28th HB 242 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration. Chair of that committee is Representative Ron Marsico.
If you believe that children should not be held financial responsible for their parent’s health and personal care costs, you might want to let your representative know your feelings. You can find the name and contact information for your representative here.