Nursing Home Resident’s Nephew And Agent Under A Power Of Attorney May Be Liable For Failing To Promptly Qualify Her For Medicaid Benefits

Defendant, Benjamin Levine, served as power of attorney for his aunt, Grace Levine. Defendant’s aunt was admitted to a convalescent facility owned by plaintiff, Hebrew Health Care, Inc. During the admissions process, the defendant signed an “Admission and Financial Agreement” which provided, among other things, that defendant “promptly apply for, or … assist the [plaintiff] as necessary to establish eligibility, or otherwise to apply for any applicable [m]edicare or other insurance benefits available to the [r]esident.” Further, the agreement also provided that the representative has legal access to the resident’s resources and agrees to pay the plaintiff for services rendered, except that the representative is not personally financially liable for the care provided by the plaintiff.

Although defendant filed a medicaid application on behalf of his aunt which was approved, the Connecticut Department of Social Services (CDSS) determined that Ms. Levine’s assets exceeded eligibility limits and imposed a penalty period, leaving a portion of her nursing home bills unpaid. As a result, plaintiff nursing home sued Mr. Levine for the outstanding balance in a case entitled Hebrew Health Care, Inc. v. Levine, (Conn. Super. Ct., No. CV085023211S, Nov. 3, 2009).

Mr. Levine filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that he had no financial liability for his aunt’s debts because he executed the admission agreement only in his capacity as her agent under the power of attorney and because the agreement expressly provided that a resident’s representative was not personally liable for the resident’s debts. The nursing home countered that it was not attempting to hold Mr. Levine personally liable for his aunt’s debts, but rather to enforce the duty imposed on the defendant in the agreement to use his aunt’s assets to pay the debt due to the plaintiff, make a prompt and expeditious application for medicaid assistance, and promptly provide all information that might be requested by CDSS in accordance with any established deadlines. Plaintiff claimed that the defendant breached this contractual duty, and as a result, it was damaged because it did not receive full payment for the care it provided to his aunt and its damages are measured by the loss of medicaid payments it would have received, but for the defendant’s failure to comply with the agreement.

The Superior Court of Connecticut denied Mr. Levine’s motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that, by signing the agreement, Mr. Levine agreed that he was the power of attorney, and that issues of fact had to be resolved at trial, including whether defendant actually failed to perform his responsibilities under the agreement; whether such failure resulted in the denial of medicaid benefits; and whether the defendant failed his obligation to use his aunt’s assets to pay her debts to the plaintiff.

The case is annexed here – Hebrew Health Care v Levine