Legislation would close loophole on incomplete background checks for health care providers

LANSING, Michigan — State Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D–Taylor) has introduced Senate Bills 66, 67, and 68, which would close a loophole that allows individuals to begin work in settings such as home health care agencies, nursing homes or adult foster care facilities, before a complete background check is conducted.

“As the American population begins to age, the demand for caretakers will only continue to increase,” Sen. Hopgood said. “More protections are needed to ensure patients are safe from financial exploitation and mistreatment at a time when they are already grappling with life changes and health issues.”

Current law allows for a ‘conditional employment’ status to be granted to a health care employee before their criminal background check is completed, and before results of the check are received by their workplace. Employees can work for sometimes 30 days or more before their employer has the completed background check from the Department of State Police.

The bills introduced by Sen. Hopgood would eliminate this status option — and require the full completion of a background check on individuals who wish to work as health care providers — prior to the start of their employment.

To illustrate how critical background checks are for preventing crimes and preying upon the elderly, The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse issued in June 2011 revealed that the annual financial loss of a victim of elder abuse is estimated to be approximately $2.9 billion nationally.

“Our aging population has resulted in many elderly patients who deserve to be safe from financial exploitation and mistreatment while receiving long-term health care,” Sen. Hopgood said. “Their families should have peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are in good hands with caretakers who have been thoroughly screened.”

Sen. Hopgood sought input and assistance from the Honorable Sandra Cicirelli of the 18th District Court in Westland, who has fielded numerous theft-related charges involving home health care workers, to help craft this legislation. After learning from her experiences, it was determined that Michigan needed to make some changes to ensure that health care providers were fully vetted prior to commencing patient care.

“Michigan seniors and the disabled who utilize caretakers are often some of our most vulnerable citizens,” Sen. Hopgood said. “It’s time for us to strengthen state law and ensure that the safety of our patients, who entrust individuals to provide quality health care, isn’t a risk at all.”