Home Heatlh Care Worker Background Checks
“Home health aides care for our most frail and vulnerable citizens,” said HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala. “We must make sure that those whom we trust to care for our senior and disabled citizens are beyond reproach.” Greater responsibility has been placed on agencies by the government to evaluate and improve the quality of services provided to beneficiaries. By running background checks on all home health workers, we ensure patient safety while providing quality healthcare. Failing to thoroughly prescreen Home Health Aid applicants places some of society’s most vulnerable citizen’s care and trust, along with their house keys, straight into the hands of convicted criminals.
In a recent study, it was noted that at least 100 certified home health aides had been convicted of crimes between 1996 and 1999. More recently, Patrick Dwyer, owner/operator of Dependable Home Health Care, Inc. was indicted for stealing approximately $160,000 in funds from the New York State Insurance Fund. Allegedly, in a scheme to steal monies, Dwyer submitted bogus vendor claims to a Senior Compensation Claims Clerk, who has also been indicted, who processed for payment the claims knowing they were being submitted by Dwyer using an identity he stole from a 92-year old man under the care of Dependable Home Health Care, Inc.
For every company convicted of health care fraud, there are hundreds of others who get away with ripping off Medicare, Medicaid, and the patients they care for and face only slap-on-the-wrist fines and penalties when caught. Yet American citizens pay $100 billion to $400 billion a year as a direct result of these crimes.
Additionally, 56,000 Americans die every year on the job or from occupational diseases and tens of thousands of others fall victim to silent violence; such as hospital and home healthcare malpractice. And all too often, these deaths are also the result of criminal recklessness.
The National Crime Victimization Survey reports that the rate of violent crime victimization of persons ages 65 or older was about 4 per 1,000 (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001). The National Elder Abuse Incident Study reports that an estimated total of 551,011 elderly persons experienced abuse, neglect, and/or self-neglect in domestic settings in 1996 alone (National Center on Elder Abuse, 1998). The most frequent forms of elder abuse reported to adult protective service agencies included neglect, emotional/ psychological abuse, financial/ material exploitation, physical abuse, and abandonment.
In Ohio, a bill has been designed and proposed to help protect mentally retarded individuals from abuse and neglect, although it has fallen victim to a power struggle between state lawmakers and the governor. Rep. Mike Gilb, R-Findlay, chairman of the Juvenile and Family Law Committee that debated the bill, said a clear majority of House Republicans support passing the bill into law.
“This is a very good piece of legislation that would protect our most vulnerable citizens,” Gilb said.
The bill is intended to make changes to state laws and help convict abusers. Included were reforms that toughened criminal background checks for prospective care workers. Sadly, such issues wouldn’t be getting addressed if crimes of this nature weren’t being committed. And many of these crimes could have been curtailed had background screens been conducted.