Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Is AARP quiet on filial responsibility out of "practical necessity"? Would a policy debate cause more states to enforce it?

Last week (on Monday August 12), I reported that I had discovered that a valuable AARP state map giving linkable details on filial responsibility laws had disappeared.  I contacted AARP, and the only response I got was that they have another posting from 2009 explaining the concept That article does have a link to a 2007 study by Evercare on the sacrifices made by family caregivers, here.
I wonder why the map link was taken down and has not been replaced. 

I can appreciate that maintaining it accurately could be a problem.  State laws in this area are tricky.  For many of the 29 states that have them, they are hard to find online, and hard to interpret. AARP could have felt that it was taking a “risk” of giving wrong legal advice by keeping it.  In any case, any adult child in this situation should talk to an eldercare lawyer in his own community and state.

Back in 2007, I researched the laws in a few states: Virginia, Maryland, California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, South Dakota, Iowa, and particularly Pennsylvania.  The findings are in this blog during that month.   I have not checked recently to see how current this information is, because it would be so time consuming to maintain (as AARP must know).  The last of these states (that is, PA) moved its filial responsibility law from the welfare code to the family code in 2005, a step that could have been seen as socially provocative.  I was in contact with a few experts in the subject in 2007.  One of them, a professor in Pennsylvania, expressed then in an email a concern that amateur’s publishing on the matter could provoke states (or other parties, like nursing homes) into trying to invoke them.   That is the mentality we used to accept with sodomy laws in the gay world;  in many states, they were on the books, but almost never enforced against private consenting adults,  But they were still there, ready for use as a political weapon.

Could AARP feel that remaining quiet on the matter is safer “practical” political strategy? I wonder. 
It is true that not many states have tried to use them recently, but we saw a case reported here in May 2012 where a nursing home went after an adult child directly rather than going to Medicaid, in Pittas case – in guess what state?  Rick Santorum’s Pennsylvania.

States, as their budgets (and particularly their public employee pension funds) get squeezed, may very well turn to these laws in the future, at least to save money in the Medicaid area. 

There is no question that as a policy matter we must debate it.  If we value keeping human beings alive as long as possible, and there are fewer children being born (especially in some populations) to support previous generations (an issue we touch all the time with the Social Security and Medicare debates), we have to consider the unelected moral and legal responsibilities of adult children as individuals.  And the debate has double-edged areas in many areas, such as childlessness, public policy supporting parents, and most of all how we look at marriage itself, and the responsibilities that go with it.  Because some of those responsibilities can exist anyway. 

Note also that on March 17, 2013 on this blog, I linked to an original article I wrote for Wikipedia on the matter.

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