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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB reports on nursing home debt collection

Federal Issues Elder Financial Exploitation Debt Collection CFPB Consumer Finance FCRA FDCPA

Federal Issues

On September 8, the CFPB released an Issue Spotlight on nursing home debt collection, which focuses on the risk of financial harm that nursing homes and their debt collectors cause by attempting to collect invalid debts. The report, conducted by the Bureau’s Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans, analyzes consumer complaints, nursing home admission contracts, and debt collection lawsuits to assess risks to nursing home residents and their caregivers. In particular, the report found that many facilities include clauses in admission contracts that require caregivers to be a “responsible party” for the resident’s costs of care, or that otherwise subject the caregiver to financial liability should the admitted resident incur a debt. The report also found that nursing home residents stay for significant amounts of time, the average nursing home stay among residents being 1 year and 4 months, and that most older adults are not insured against the costs of long-term care. According to a statement by CFPB Director Rohit Chopra, he expects the "Office for Older Americans will emerge as a key pillar within the policymaking and law enforcement community on financial issues faced by older adults and their caregivers."

The same day, the CFPB released Circular 2022-05, which asks the question: “Can debt collection and consumer reporting practices relating to nursing home debts that are invalid under the Nursing Home Reform Act [(NHRA)] violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)?” The Circular explained, though the Bureau does not enforce the NHRA, that the NHRA prohibits a nursing facility from conditioning a resident’s admission or continued stay on receiving a guarantee of payment from a third party, such as a relative or friend. The Circular also highlighted certain practices related to the collection of nursing home debts that are invalid under the NHRA and its implementing regulation that also violate the FDCPA and FCRA. The Bureau also issued a joint letter with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to nursing facilities and debt collectors reminding them of their responsibilities under the NHRA, FDCPA, and FCRA.

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