Home Healthcare Background Checks: a Mixed Bag of Standards
As the Baby Boomer population ages, issues such as retirement and healthcare (i.e. Medicare) are becoming increasingly prominent in the news. Home healthcare has become a fast-growing industry, and the patients who use these services are a vulnerable population for criminals looking to prey on easy targets. Relevant to this, a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article reported on the widely varying state background requirements for home health workers in the U.S.
Background requirements for home healthcare workers
Currently there are no federal laws that prohibit home health companies from hiring people who have been convicted of crimes such as assault, rape, or theft. This is regulated by each state. And each state determines what types of (if any) background checks should be used when hiring healthcare talent. Alarming information from an OIG memo (referenced in the article) reports that ten states do not require any background checks at all for home health workers. These states include Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming (although it should be noted that Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii and West Virginia are developing plans to require background checks).
But even in the states that require healthcare background checks, there is no uniform background standard. Some states require only statewide background checks, while others require FBI and statewide checks. In certain states, everyone must undergo a background check, while in others only certain individuals must have a background done (for example, those who provide direct care or enter peoples’ homes).
And when home health providers can begin working also varies by state. Some states allow people to begin working while the background is pending, whereas others require the background check results prior to allowing that person to work.
Despite all of the differences, the article reports that there has been significant change since ten years prior, when states were less strict about criminal background checks to screen home health workers. And as more states enact background check requirements for people working in this field, the vulnerable population that they help will be better served.