New Emphasis on Patient Safety Will Cause Greater Scrutiny of Home Care Providers
While In Home Care Organizations (“HCOs”) have been relatively free of laws and regulation, such companies are coming under increasing scrutiny in California. There have been concerns about patient safety and security, which has caused the state to enact laws and regulations that impose safety checks and training. There are also concerns about abuse of HCO workers, causing minimums standards for companies employing such workers. While many of these reforms appear to be appropriate, they also make the utilization of in home services more expensive, which will make such services unaffordable for a large segment of the population.
HOME CARE SERVICES CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT
The most significant reform is the Home Care Services Consumer Protection Act of 2013 (AB 1217), signed into law on October 13, 2013. It covers “home care services,” which are formally defined as nonmedical services and assistance provided by a registered home care assistant (“HCA”) to a client who, because of advanced age or physical or mental disability needs assistance in activities of daily living, allowing the client to stay in their residence. Such services include assistance in the following areas:
• personal hygiene and grooming
• toileting and incontinence care
• meal planning and preparation
• making telephone calls
• shopping for personal care items or groceries
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE ACT?
This legislation requires agencies to: List aides in an online registry, conduct background checks on workers, obtain finger prints of all aides, provide five hours of training for new hires, and obtain a license from the state certifying their compliance with basic standards.
The commencement date of the law was extended to January 1, 2016. It provides that the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) will regulate HCOs and provide background checks of affiliated Home Care Aides (HCAs) and independent HCAs who wish to be listed on the Home Care Services (HCS) Registry. Currently CDSS is implementing regulations, including the formation of newly formed Home Care Services Bureau (HCSB) in partnership with the Caregiver Background Check Bureau (CBCB). HCSB will oversee the licensing and oversight of the HCOs and CBCB will oversee the background checks for the HCAs and will maintain the HCS Registry.
Some of the penalties found in the Act include:
• $900 fine per day for each day if not licensed by Department of Social Services
• Potential cease and desist order, which shall remain in effect until the individual or entity has obtained a license pursuant to this chapter.
Potential imposition of a civil penalty; or
Potential civil action against the individual or entity.
If CDSS finds that an individual has been convicted of a crime other than a minor traffic violation, the individual cannot work for or be present in any community care facility unless they receive a criminal record exemption from the Community Care Licensing Division, Caregiver Background Check Bureau.
CALIFORNIA’S IHSS PROGRAM
California has established the In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, which is a Medi-Cal program providing payment to providers who are serving aged and/or disabled patients who are without the means to pay for such services Persons wanting to become a IHSS provider must provide a U.S. government issued picture identification and an original Social Security card and the provider must complete the Provider Enrollment Form (SOC 426) and obtain finger prints. The California Department of Justice (DOJ) will obtain a criminal background check on the individual.
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR WAGE AND HOUR RULES
On January 1, 2015, the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights (AB 241), took effect. It regulates the number of consecutive hours for home health care workers and requires overtime pay for long work shifts.
California now is one of 16 states with some type of overtime requirement for home health workers. Personal attendants covered by this law are now entitled to overtime pay at 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for any hours worked in excess of nine (9) hours in a day or in excess of 45 hours in a week.
The new law, due to sunset in 2017, calls for formation of an evaluation committee to review and analyze the effectiveness of the overtime provision over the next three years. The California Department of Industrial Relations is charged with reviewing the law.
One of the areas the committee will monitor is whether the law prompts more underground caregiving, as Janz said is happening.
Domestic workers are entitled to the minimum wage, with the exception of babysitters under the age of 18 and the employer’s parent, spouse, or child. The Labor Commissioner enforces the California minimum wage. The Labor Commissioner may enforce local minimum wage laws if the work is performed in a city and/or county that has a higher minimum wage ordinance.
If your employer discriminates or retaliates against you in any manner whatsoever (for example by terminating you or giving you fewer hours), you can file a discrimination/retaliation complaint with the Labor Commissioner’s Office. Alternatively, you can file a lawsuit against your employer in court.
Institute security check program with all home aides working for your organization, including back ground check and finger printing.
Obtain an exemption or terminate those home aides that fail the background check.
Institute a training program for all home aides working for your organization
Review wage and hour polices and ensure that your organization has all employee manuals with the proper overtime and minimum wage rules.
By Matt Kinley, Esq.