“I thought this was crazy.”Lucille Brooks
Lucille Brooks, 74, Pittsford, New York
Approximate Medical Debt: $8,000
Medical Issue: None. She was billed for her brother’s care.
What Happened: Lucille Brooks was stunned to discover a nursing home in Monroe County, New York, was suing her. She had never been a patient there. Nor had her husband. “I thought this was crazy,” she said, figuring it had to be a mistake.
The bill was for care her brother, James Lawson, received in summer 2019. He’d been hospitalized for complications from a diabetes medication. The hospital released him to the county-run nursing home, where Brooks had visited him a few times. No one ever talked to her about billing, she said. And she was never asked to sign anything.
Brooks and Lawson were part of a big family that moved north from Mississippi to escape segregation in the 1960s. Lawson had a career at the Rochester Parks and Recreation Department. Brooks worked in insurance. They lived on opposite sides of the city. “My brother always took care of his own business,” she said.
Lawson spent two months in the nursing home. A year later, Brooks was sued.
The county alleged that Brooks should have used her brother’s assets to pay his bills and that she was therefore personally responsible for his debt. Attached to the suit was an admissions agreement with what looked like Brooks’ signature.
Lucille Brooks (Heather Ainsworth for KHN)
What’s Broken: Admissions agreements often designate whoever signs as a “responsible party” who will help the nursing home collect payments or enroll the resident in Medicaid, the government safety-net program.
Consumer advocates say nursing homes slip the agreements into papers that fam …