Home Healthcare Worker Background Check State Requirements

Home Healthcare Worker Background Check State Requirements
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The topic of background checks on home healthcare workers has received significant attention from the media recently. By now, you’ve probably heard the stories of home healthcare workers who’ve taken advantage of vulnerable elderly patients. In the 2014 OIG Work Plan released in February, the agency declared it would focus on the adverse events occurring in home health facilities across the country.

Despite all the negative attention home healthcare has received in recent years, not all states have background check requirements for this healthcare sector. This article discusses the state requirements as they stand today as well as upcoming changes.

The OIG Memorandum Report on Home Health Agency Employee State Background Check Requirements

Brian P. Ritchie, Acting Deputy General for Evaluation and Inspections at the OIG, released a memorandum report on May 29, 2014 that provides an overview of the current State background check requirements for home healthcare. The ten-page memorandum, “State Requirements for Conducting Background Checks on Home Health Agency Employees”, identifies State background check requirements for home healthcare workers as well as the types of criminal convictions that disqualify individuals for home healthcare employment based on State law or regulations.

Given the adverse events that have occurred in this healthcare sector, the results are surprising. At the time the memorandum was issued, 10 States currently did not have a background check requirement:

  1. Alabama
  2. Connecticut
  3. Georgia
  4. Hawaii
  5. Montana
  6. New Jersey
  7. North Dakota
  8. South Dakota
  9. West Virginia
  10. Wyoming

Fortunately, four of the States without background check requirements for home healthcare workers (Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, and West Virginia) reported they have plans to implement requirements in the future.

While there is no federal law that forbids home healthcare agencies from hiring individuals who have been convicted of crimes, agencies must comply with State laws in order to participate in Medicare. Overall, States require two kinds of background checks for home health agencies to use: Statewide and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background checks.

There are three notable differences among the 41 States with background check requirements:

  1. 15 States require home healthcare agencies to receive results before individuals can begin employment
  2. 15 States require additional background checks subsequent to initial checks
  3. 35 States specify convictions that disqualify individuals from employment

Home Healthcare Worker Background Check Recommendations

While the OIG did not make any recommendations in the memorandum, as a healthcare-exclusive background screening firm, there’s a few recommendations I can suggest.

At the very minimum, review your State’s background check requirements (if any) and ensure that your policies comply with the law. Not only is it the law, but it’s also a requirement if your organization wishes to participate in Medicare.

Next, keep in mind that State background check requirements are the very minimum and there are many limitations with the most frequently required types of background checks like the FBI search. If you base your background check strictly on this type of search, note that a significant portion of the FBI’s records are either inaccurate or incomplete. Supplementing your State’s required background checks with primary source searches such as county criminal searches will ensure you are checking the latest and most accurate information that is publicly available.

Finally, consider that 15 states require additional background checks after the initial background check. Remember that a background check represents a snapshot in time, and what you find at the time of hire might not be the same as what you see a year or three later down the road. At PreCheck, we work with healthcare organizations that conduct background checks on their staff on an annual basis in order to minimize risk for their facility and to protect their patients from harm.

PreCheck Background Screening Resource Kit