November 15, 2012
Renewed Scrutiny on Background Checks
As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act was passed and enacted. Elder abuse is viewed as a significant problem by society. Legislators hope that the Act will help bring elder abuse to the forefront of the public’s mind. The Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act seeks to prevent people with criminal backgrounds from working in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.
The Act amends the Elder Abuse section of the Social Security Act, to allow for a nationwide background check for applicants seeking employment in nursing homes, adult care homes and other long-term direct care services. Under the Act, states would coordinate their systems and check job applicants against neglect and abuse registries. In addition, they would conduct a police check at the state level and then applicants would be screened against the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s national criminal records database.
The Act also creates a National Training Institute for Surveyors. Surveyors are essentially investigators sent to collect facts on reports of abuse, neglect or misuse of patient funds, or misuse of Medicare or Medicaid funds and property. The U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary will make grants available to state ombudsman agencies that will survey nursing home service providers for information systems to investigate, record, and report on infractions of the law. Prior to its implementation at a nationwide level, seven states participated in a pilot program to determine the effectiveness of the increased level of criminal background checks.
Over the course of four years, the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act will provide $400 million in new funds for Adult Protective Services and $100 million for state demonstration grants to test best practices. In addition, it will deliver $32.5 million over four years in grants to support the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, $40 million over four years for training, and creates an Elder Justice Coordinating counsel to make recommendations to coordinate local, state, federal and private agencies.
The new laws, including the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act, are an indication of how seriously elder abuse is being viewed by both the public and Congress. Skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities and other senior housing would benefit from additional screening of all workers that have contact with patients. While the initial costs may be higher, due to the additional screening required, it will likely lead to lower costs overall because the number of lawsuits alleging elder abuse by senior housing personnel should decrease.