For those who were wondering about the importance of background checks for long-term senior care, the United States Department of Health and Human Services recently released a new study that answers the question. The report, which was compiled by the Office of Inspector General, looked at statistics for background checks on long-term care providers in six areas—five states and the District of Columbia. Specifically, the study looked to track the percentage of long-term care applicants who were disqualified from employment consideration due to background check findings.
Based on the Inspector General’s report, 2.9% of all applicants across the six territories were denied long-term care employment because of their backgrounds. The worst offender, in terms of percentages, was Alaska, where 4% of applicants were disqualified from consideration. Also included in the survey were Florida (3.3%), Michigan (1.1%), New Mexico (1.1%), Washington D.C. (1%), and Oklahoma (0.4%). In total, the survey tracked 1,046,121 background checks, of which 30,025 people were deemed ineligible for employment.
While Alaska had the worst average, Florida actually had the most damning statistics in terms of sheer numbers. A popular retirement destination, Florida was the state where the Inspector General recorded the most background checks: 787,683, to be exact. Of those, more than 26,000 people were deemed ineligible to serve as long-term care providers. In another state without a senior care background check requirement, all 26,000 of those people might have been permitted to work with seniors—a sobering statistic, to be sure.
As the Inspector General report noted, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (more commonly known as Obamacare) promises grants to the states that "implement background check programs for prospective long-term-care employees." The six states reviewed in this report were the ones to take the government up on that offer. As a stipulation of the Obamacare grants, the states were required to open their records to an investigation from the Office of the Inspector General. The report chronicles the investigation, which looked at the first four years of the program from September 2010 to September 2014.
The survey showed two things. First of all, the implementation of background check policies for long-term care workers hasn't exactly gone off without a hitch. Most states were, for one reason or another, unable to report data about their background checks. The report included details about these failutres, which will hopefully help states to improve their policies and ensure better data reporting going forward.
The second trend displayed by the survey is that, when done right, background checks for long-term care providers are extremely important. Recently, we've seen a lot of national headlines about caregivers who were arrested, charged, and convicted of abusing their positions. From embezzlement of bank accounts to abuse and neglect, caregivers are in a position to take advantage of their patients if they wish to do so. Since many elderly patients are vulnerable due to low mobility, mental decline, or overall physical frailty, they are often the targets of con artists and other unsavory people. As Florida and Alaska's statistics show, it's important to have background checks in place to filter some of these potentially dangerous individuals out of the caregiver pool.
Read the full Office of Inspector General report here.