Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cracking down on home health care fraud.....REALLY?

Cracking down on home health care fraud
Updated: 06/12/2008 09:21 AM
By: Ken Jubie

NEW YORK STATE -- Dr. Hedy Migden thought she had done everything right when trying to find a Certified Nursing Assistant to take care of her then 84-year-old Parkinson's inflicted mother. She used a reputable agency, listed specific needs and was assured that the aide's background checked out. But even after doing her due diligence, Migden and her mother became victims of the fraud Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and state leaders are hoping to prevent.

At first, Dr. Migden and her mom were very happy with their home health aide, Tracey Uzel.

“She seemed competent. She slept on a cot in my mom's room. She seemed attentive and appropriate,” Midgen said.

Cracking down on home health care fraud
State lawmakers and the Attorney General are proposing legislation to crack down on fraud in the home health care industry. Ken Jubie sat down with a woman who used a reputable agency to hire a Certified Nursing Assistant to take care of her then 84-year-old mother, only to become a victim of the fraud Cuomo and state leaders are hoping to prevent.

But about a week later, Migden said her service started to slip. Then on the Saturday morning of Uzel's third week, she found her mother's house a mess and her debit card and other personal items were gone. They were stolen by the caretaker.

“We called the police, had her arrested and with the police interrogating her, she indeed produced the debit card,” Migden said.

About an hour later, the police revealed even more about the woman trusted to take care of her mother.

“Tracey Uzel is in fact Jonathan Uzel. And that Jonathan Uzel had a very extensive rap sheet including assault, prostitution,” said Migden.

Now, six years later, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers are joining together to create legislation preventing others from feeling the same senses of guilt and betrayal Migden has experienced since entrusting her mother's care to a criminal.

Cuomo said 152,000 New Yorkers receive this kind of aide and his investigation led to more than 50 arrests for industry fraud. To stop it, he's proposing an Internet registry, listing aides and the schools that certified them.

“Part of the registry will require the school to certify that the aide was trained in accordance with state regulations,” Cuomo said.

The New York CARES Act will also list employment history, prior instances of abuse, mistreatment or neglect and past Department of Health decisions on employment based on criminal history.

“If the home care person doesn't have credibility coming into your home, that creates a huge discomfort for everybody,” said Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

“I think to have a central registry would prevent those who have more serious offenses from even presenting to an agency for hire,” Migden said.

Migden said the state is taking a solid first step to save other families from the pain she and her mother have experienced. Her mother, by the way, is now 90 and doing well in a nursing home and Migden said she hopes lawmakers will also consider stronger requirements for people responsible for caring for one of our most vulnerable populations.

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