TRENTON – Both Houses today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Nellie Pou that would require health care service firms that provide in-home companion services for senior citizens or disabled residents to obtain registration and accreditation.
“These aides spend a significant amount of time in the homes of some of our most vulnerable residents. It is vital that our residents feel safe and that their families know that their loved ones are protected,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic and Bergen). “In order to do this, the state must provide the oversight necessary to ensure that senior citizens and persons with disabilities are being cared for appropriately.”
The bill (S-667) would 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 bill would 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. Under current law, providers of companion services are not subject to any accreditation or registration requirements of health care service firms.
In addition, the bill would 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.
“Because of the current lax requirements, some firms have committed Medicaid fraud, or have placed uncertified aides in patients’ homes,” added Senator Pou. “It is time to put an end to these practices and guarantee both high-quality care for the patients and fiscal transparency for the State.”
The Senate approved the legislation by a vote of 35-1, it then went to the General Assembly where it passed with a vote of 59-17-2. It now heads to the Governor’s desk.