Pou Legislation Expanding Definition And Registration Requirements For Health Care Sservice Firms Becomes Law
Measure Will Require Providers of Companion Services To Obtain Accreditation
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Nellie Pou that would require health care service firms providing in-home companion services for senior citizens or disabled residents to obtain registration and accreditation was signed into law Monday by the Governor.
“I am very pleased that the Governor has signed this piece of legislation that will protect both our senior citizens and New Jersey public finances” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic and Bergen). “It took two years to pass this law, but today I am very proud of the hard work we put in to correct the flaws of the current system.”
When the law takes effect, in 18 months, it will expand the definition of a health care service firm to include firms that provide companion services – non-medical, basic supervision and socialization services that do not include assistance with activities of daily living – exclusively in the residence of a person with a disability or senior citizen 60 years of age or over. As a result, the law will require providers of companion services to be registered as health care service firms by the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety.
In addition, the law will require that all health care service firms, as a condition of registration, obtain accreditation within 12 months of registration from an entity recognized by the Commissioner of Human Services as an accrediting body for homemaker agencies participating in the Medicaid program. Lastly, it would require all health care service firms to undergo a thorough compliance and financial audit by a qualified certified public accountant.
Last month, three men who worked, or used to work, for a Hackensack-based home health agency were indicted for committing Medicaid fraud. They allegedly used the current lax oversight to steal $73,000 from the State between 2008 and 2012. Under the new law, this kind of abuse will be detected and punished much faster.
Two years ago, the New Jersey Board of Nursing conducted a survey of 24 of the 900 Licensed Health Care Service Firms. Out of the 24, only four were accredited and no problems were found with them. For the 20 unaccredited ones, many problems showed up. Some firms were not providing even the basic training necessary for aides to provide the proper care. Because accreditation is now a requirement for registration, the care provided by Home Health Care Service firms will improve throughout the state.
“The new system will give families the peace of mind they deserve. Our senior citizens and their families should not have to worry about the quality of the care they receive in their homes,” added Senator Pou. “In the long run, this law will not only benefit senior citizens and the state’s finances, but also the whole New Jersey health care industry, as it will gain a reputation of excellence.”