Don’t Be Misled By What You Think Your Admission Agreement Says

The most important aspect of an admission agreement from the perspective of a nursing facility is to make the payment obligation and terms clear and binding. And those terms have to be clear and binding not only to the person signing but also, eventually, to the courts. Any ambiguities in an admission agreement are always resolved against the drafter and the drafter in virtually every case is the nursing facility.

In December, the Rhode Island Superior Court ruled against a local nursing home that attempted to enforce a payment obligation against the family member of a patient in her capacity as a representative of the patient. While there were factual issues with regard to the actual capacity in which this individual signed the agreement, the important point is that the facility believed its agreement legally bound the individual. The court disagreed. It found the document to be vague on the point and ruled for the individual against the home. While an appeal could conceivably lead to a reversal, the monetary value of the administrative and legal resources necessary to secure such a reversal could ultimately exceed the amount at issue.

With the New Year it may be worthwhile to have someone take a look at your admission agreement to make sure it is doing for you what you think it is and, more importantly, to make sure you understand what can and cannot be accomplished through the admission agreement. The use of the term “responsible party” is not a magic bullet. It does not automatically make that individual a guarantor of payment. If you are looking for such a result from your agreement, a review now may align your expectations with reality and save you grief and money later.