In a random, anonymized sample of 700 guardianship cases filed in Manhattan over a decade, Hunter College researchers found more than 12 percent were brought by nursing homes. Some of these may have been prompted by family feuds, suspected embezzlement or just the absence of relatives to help secure Medicaid coverage. But lawyers and others versed in the guardianship process agree that nursing homes primarily use such petitions as a means of bill collection -- a purpose never intended by the Legislature when it enacted the guardianship statute in 1993.
At least one judge has ruled that the tactic by nursing homes is an abuse of the law, but the petitions, even if they are ultimately unsuccessful, force families into costly legal ordeals.
"It's a strategic move to intimidate," said Ginalisa Monterroso, who handled patient Medicaid accounts at the Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home until 2012, and is now chief executive of Medicaid Advisory Group, an elder carecounseling business that was representing Mr. Palermo in his billing dispute. "Nursing homes do it just to bring money."
Preliminary findings of the center's study are not expected until later this year, but at the request of The Times, the researchers undertook a breakdown of the petitioners in a sample of the 3,302 guardianship cases filed in Manhattan from 2002 to 2012. More frequent petitioners than nursing homes (12.4 percent) were hospitals (16.1 percent), friends and family (25.3 percent) and Adult Protective Services (40.1 percent).