One of the little-noticed provisions of the new Obamacare law is a section that develops a funding mechanism for states to begin comprehensive background checks on individuals providing care to the elderly and disabled. Last week, Gov. Steve Beshear announced that prospective caregivers for some of Kentucky’s most vulnerable citizens may soon be subject to extensive criminal record searches, thanks to a $3 million grant to establish a comprehensive statewide system for thorough background checks.
“The Commonwealth of Kentucky is very pleased to participate in this critical initiative that is designed to help long-term care facilities and providers avoid hiring individuals with certain criminal histories by conducting federal and state level background checks on prospective job applicants,” said Gov. Beshear. “This falls directly in line with our ongoing work to address elder abuse and improve patient care in long-term care facilities.”
Currently, state law requires long-term care facilities to conduct only name-based background checks for their prospective employees. This grant, however, will help the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) purchase equipment to conduct digital fingerprint background checks, which will ultimately enhance patient safety.
The grant enables the state to purchase live scan equipment to secure digital fingerprints that will be used for both in-state and FBI criminal background checks, according to cabinet officials.
Kentucky is home to 590 long-term care facilities, 101 assisted living facilities, and roughly 600 other providers who employ direct patient access workers.
Once established, this new statewide system will allow officials to perform more in-depth screening of applicants seeking employment at nursing, intermediate care and Alzheimer’s facilities; personal care and family care homes; home health agencies, hospice care providers, long-term care hospitals, personal services agencies, adult day care providers, assisted living facilities, intermediate care facilities for individuals with mental retardation and developmental disabilities, and other entities that provide long-term services.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is charged with administering the National Background Check Program (NBCP), created under Section 6201 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (popularly known as “Obamacare”). This agency is under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Last year, Gov. Beshear ordered a multi-agency review — coordinated by the CHFS — that resulted in a comprehensive report on the protection of nursing home residents. The Cabinet has implemented many recommendations included in the report. Additionally, the cabinet has revived the state Elder Abuse Committee to continue the vital collaboration between agencies and stakeholders in an effort to enhance measures aimed at protecting Kentucky’s seniors.
The state also joined the national Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program. In the program, states work with medical professionals to detect cases where older Americans are being scammed.
On the heels of these actions, Gov. Beshear supported and later signed into law two pieces of legislation targeted at protecting adults and the elderly from abuse and exploitation. The laws, which specifically addressed guardianship of adults, bar individuals convicted of felony abuse or exploitation of an adult from serving as that victim’s guardian, executor or power of attorney. The other measure makes the guardianship process more accessible for those who are dealing with more than one state.
“The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is committed to our mission to protect Kentucky’s most vulnerable citizens,” said CHFS Secretary Janie Miller. “We are pleased to take part in the National Background Check Program and commend Gov. Beshear for his continued leadership and support of issues that safeguard Kentucky’s seniors.”
As the state begins to implement the grant, it seeks input from the provider community and public and private stakeholders on the development of legislation designed to expand current background check policies. For more information or to provide input on the new program, contact the Office of the Inspector General at (502) 564-2888.