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REPORT: CMS Should Promote Background Checks at Home Health Agencies

May 21, 2015

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) should work to better promote background checks for employees of Medicare-certified home health agencies, a report by the federal Office of Inspector General (OIG) says.

“Ensuring a minimum level of background screening in all states would help ensure the safety of the [home health agency] patient population,” the May 2015 report by the OIG, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says.

Currently, there are no federal laws mandating background checks in home health agencies. At least 41 states have such laws in place, however, with four states reporting an intention to introduce background-check laws in the near future.

The report analyzed the background-check policies at 99 Medicare-certified home health agencies.

It found that 83 percent of agencies performed background checks on all prospective employees, while the remaining 17 percent conducted checks on specific groups of employees (for example, home health aides).

Also, 58 percent conducted period checks on employees after they were hired.

The report also found that 48.5 percent of agencies employed a worker with a criminal conviction; overall, 5.9 percent of “home health aides, certified nurse assistants, or other home care assistants” had been convicted of a crime.

The report notes that these crimes may not have disqualified them from employment under their state’s laws.

Nevertheless, the report argues that CMS “could promote minimum standards for HHA employee background checks by encouraging more States to participate in the National Background Check Program.”

— by Matthew Ozga

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