OIG Pushes for More Staff Background Checks in Home Health

Despite the close relationship between home health aides and patients, there are no federal laws or regulations requiring that home health agencies (HHAs) conduct background checks on their employees — a liability for the agency and a risk to the client.

In fact, a recent review by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that 4% of HHA employees in a sample of nearly 100 agencies had at least one criminal conviction, although it was undetermined whether such convictions would have disqualified them from employment.

While state requirements for background checks vary — as to what sources of information must be checked, which job positions require background checks, and what types of convictions prohibit employment — the OIG recommends that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) promote minimum standards in background check procedures in the home health sector.

“Because HHA employees provide care — usually unsupervised — to patients in their homes, ensuring that HHA employees have undergone a minimum level of screening would help protect the safety of Medicare beneficiaries,” the OIG report states.

The OIG suggests CMS encourage more states to participate in its National Background Check Program, which requires all direct patient access employees to undergo fingerprint-based statewide and FBI background checks, as well as checks of state-based registries of abuse and neglect.

In addition, the program requires states to test methods for employers to automatically receive notifications of any convictions their employees receive following initial background checks.

CMS agreed with the agency’s recommendation.

To access the report, click here.

Written by Emily Study