May 14 2015 Background Checks for Home Health Care Workers
As the population has aged, home health care has become a necessity. In 2012, approximately 3.5 million Americans received home health care services through Medicare. Services are also provided through private home care agencies and Medicaid.
Many states require some background screening in order to protect vulnerable individuals from violent criminals who are unsupervised and work to care for them in their home. Home Health Agencies and accompanying regulations are not currently governed by federal standards and vary by state. According to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General. “There are also no federal laws or regulations that prohibit [home health agencies] from hiring individuals who have been convicted of crimes (e.g., assault, rape, and theft) or who have had a finding concerning abuse, neglect,”
While 40 states and the District of Columbia have defined varying levels of checks and restrictions, at least 10 states have no background check requirements at all. These include Alabama, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Some states without requirements are developing background check “plans”, theses include Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii and West Virginia. New York, Illinois and Florida require background checks including fingerprint checks through the FBI and out of state offenses. Texas and California require statewide checks but do not currently examine convictions from other jurisdictions.
At this time, fifteen states require confirmation and clearance before an individual is allowed to access patients. Sixteen states allow individuals to submit an application to have a conviction waived, depending on the circumstances and severity of the crime, if they were denied employment in the home health care industry because of a criminal violation. At least 20 states allow individuals to work with patients for a specified timeframe while background checks are being conducted.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has stated that they believe states should run background checks on all direct care workers “to ensure that individuals with a history of violence or financial malfeasance do not participate in the Medicaid program as a provider.” The union recommends state funded FBI database searches and background checks to relieve any caregiver costs, and believes that that individuals should be allowed to work provisionally while background check information is are being acquired.
In 2012, Medicare paid an estimated$18.5 billion for Home Health Agency services. It is clear that federal as well as state guidance and regulations will need to be employed as the cost of care increases and we increasingly rely on the home health industry to care for our aging population.
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