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Post date: September 12 2007

Senator Kemp Hannon And Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried To Hold Joint Hearing On Findings Of Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo’s Investigation Into The Home Health Care Industry

822 Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY 12248 - Tel: 518-455-4941
250 Broadway, #2232, New York, NY 10007 - Tel: 212-312-1492

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 12, 2007) - Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried and Senator Kemp Hannon today announced they will hold a joint Senate and Assembly hearing on the findings of Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo's investigation into the home health care industry. Cuomo, who will testify at the hearing, also announced a legislative proposal to create a statewide registry of home health aides as a significant first step at addressing the fraud and theft in the home health care industry that was uncovered during his investigation.

"The extensive fraud we have uncovered in the home health care industry has endangered New York's most vulnerable population, cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, and has been going on far too long," said Attorney General Cuomo. "While my office continues to crack down on fraud in the industry, it is imperative to seek solutions for the underlying problems. Creating a statewide registry to track and ensure proper certification of home health aides, those who directly care for New York's elderly and infirm, is an important first step toward ending the fraud."

Cuomo's legislative proposal calls for a statewide registry of certified home health aides to be developed and maintained by the New York State Department of Health. A registry already exists for nurse aides that work in nursing homes. By creating a registry for home health aides, this bill would extend the same protections that exist in the nursing homes to care-dependent persons being cared for in their homes. Sen. Hannon and Assembly Member Gottfried have both endorsed Cuomo's proposal.

Sen. Hannon said, "I am pleased to take a critical first step in assuring New Yorkers that the home care workers performing valuable health care services in their homes are qualified and trained properly. The few who have exploited the system undermine their good work. I look forward to engaging in a process through the hearing that comprehensively reviews these training and competency practices."

"We need to protect those who depend on home care," said Assembly Member Gottfried. "A home care worker registry will help home care agencies screen who they hire and help the state detect fraud and misconduct. We'll work with patient advocates, home care agencies, unions, the Health Department, and Attorney General Cuomo to get this done as quickly as possible. I look forward to the public hearing."

"AARP commends Attorney General Cuomo for his continued leadership in fighting fraud in the home health care industry," said Lois Aronstein, director of AARP New York State. "Establishing a central registry of home health workers is a step in the right direction to help ensure that older persons who wish to remain independent and living at home receive services by trained, qualified and well-supervised individuals."

The proposal for the home health aide registry calls for the following:

Name, address, gender and date of birth of certified home health aides.
Name and date of state-approved training and competency evaluation program successfully completed.
A copy of the training certificate issued to the individual.
The aide's employment history in home care and health care.

A state-wide registry of certified home health aides would enhance the State's ability to oversee the industry; provide potential employers with the ability to screen home health aides; and help to detect and deter fraud. It will enable the State to keep track of the number and the identity of home health aides working in New York. Moreover, when employers are required to verify certification with a central registry that includes identifying information, they are given the power to verify that the person presenting the certificate is, in fact, the person that was certified.

"It is imperative this state provide the added protection a registry would create for New Yorkers who choose to be cared for in their homes, and I am looking forward to testifying before the Senate and Assembly about the proposal," Cuomo said.

As discovered through Cuomo's ongoing 'Operation Home Alone' investigation, abuses in the home health industry include:

Multiple agencies submitting bills for the same aide or not listing the name of the actual home health aide - often resulting in bills representing service lasting 24 hours a day or more.
Widespread issuing and purchases of fraudulent home health agency certificates, including aides allowing illegal immigrants to work using their credentials - without proper training.
Poor record-keeping that provides no discernible paper trail for billing records

Rules establishing and regulating home health care in New York State were passed in 1977. The aim was to create a "nursing home without walls," reducing costs associated with institutionalization and providing patients a greater level of comfort. Every month, more than 80,000 New Yorkers receive some sort of Medicaid funded home health services - just over 54,000 of them live in New York City. Last year, Medicaid spent nearly $1.3 billion in taxpayer money on home health care.

The date for the Senate-Assembly hearing has not yet been set.