Outcry Continues Over Law Allowing Caregivers to Poach Home Care Clients

Home care providers and legislators in one state are voicing concerns about recent legislation that would allow caregivers to poach clients from home care agencies without being penalized.

The provision was recently written into the Connecticut state budget. It bans noncompete contracts and similar agreements in “homemaker, companion or home health services.”

In other words, agreements prohibiting caregivers from taking clients with them when they leave would be unenforceable if the legislation passes.

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As a result, providers like Heidi Huhn Partain, owner of BrightStar Care of Hartford, worry caregivers and clients will take advantage of agencies’ screening, training and matching services — then cut providers out of the picture.

“This legislation would have a significant negative impact on our business and our put our clients at risk by allowing a caregiver to leverage our client relationships for their own gain without any recourse,” Partain told Home Health Care News in an email. “Our clients are among the most vulnerable citizens of Connecticut and should not be left in the care of an unsupervised caregiver.”

More than 130 Connecticut home care agencies — including BrightStar Care of Hartford — have joined forces in an effort to fight the budget provision.

However, the outcry against the legislation is not confined to those working in the home-based care industry. Former Connecticut Senator Joe Markley said he’s wary of the provision — and stressed the importance of non-solicitation agreements for the sake of agencies and clients alike.

“Non-solicitation agreements require only that home care employees refrain from converting people an agency has matched them with into private clients, or from taking those clients with them to a competing company,” Markley, a Republican, told HHCN in an email. “Without that narrow limitation, agencies might lose their clients to the very people they hired and trained to care for them.”

Industry experts have long used and recommended non-solicitation and direct-hire agreements as a way to protect agencies without hurting caregivers. In short, both types of agreements penalize caregivers or clients from cutting the agency out.

“We’re encouraging all the agencies and home care workers in the state to voice their concerns,” Angelo Spinola — shareholder and attorney at international labor and employment law firm Littler Mendelson, which is representing the coalition of Connecticut home care agencies opposing the provision — previously told HHCN.

Markley echoed those concerns.

“It is widely acknowledged that the agency model is the safest and most stable for all parties involved; we should be wary of changes that might undermine it,” Markley said. “It’s hard to say just what the impact of [the provision] will be if signed into law, since no state has ever imposed such a prohibition. That fact in itself should make us cautious.”

While the Connecticut Senate has passed the budget, which includes the provision, Dem. Gov. Ned Lamont can still veto line items. Once he signs the budget, provisions in it will become law.

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