Fingerprints? Recipients and Providers of In-Home Care Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Fingerprints!
More than 400,000 low-income elderly Californians who receive in-home care through the state – and their caregivers — will not need to submit fingerprints to receive the services, under legislation on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.
The fingerprinting requirement was approved as part of the budget for the fiscal year that ended June 30, ostensibly to combat “fraud” allegedly occurring in delivering In-Home Supportive Services, the fastest growing social program in the state budget.
Combined with other policy changes like criminal background checks on caregivers and more surprise visits to the homes of recipients, the fingerprinting was estimated to help generate some $135 million in general fund savings during the first year of implementation.
The fingerprinting requirement has yet to be implemented.
“There’s been no evidence of any widespread fraud in the in-home care program and there’s no data to support the effectiveness of fingerprinting recipients and providers,” said Sen. Noreen Evans, a Santa Rosa Democrat, who carried the legislation repealing the fingerprint requirement, SB 930.
“In the absence of evidence, the money to be spent on this part of the program should be spent on other priorities,” Evans said.
District attorneys oppose the bill and have urged a veto by the Democratic governor.
“We are concerned that “(eliminating the recipient fingerprinting requirement) will significantly hinder efforts to deter persons from seeking duplicate aid and could potentially make discovery of such fraud more difficult,” the California District Attorneys Association wrote in a September 14 letter to Brown.
“Ensuring program integrity should be the hallmark of public assistance programs and eliminating this security feature before it is even implemented will make that task more difficult.”
The fingerprinting was estimated to cost $21 million over seven years.
Supporters of the repeal, led by the California Association of Public Authorities, say the state would need 1,000 $5,000-a-piece “MorphoTrak” devices to fingerprint the nearly 450,000 Californians receiving in-home care and the nearly 363,000 persons who provide it, as of September 15.
The “MorphoTrak” devices were used in Iraq and are capable of fingerprinting, snapping a photo and transferring data instantaneously.
Supporters of Evans’ bill, which also include the California State Association of Counties, cite statistics they say show there is no widespread fraud to combat.
During the fiscal year that ended June 30, 20101 – the latest year for which state statistics are available, — in-home care fraud investigators received 2,458 complaints.
They conducted 347 unannounced home visits, launched 193 criminal probes and closed 107 criminal investigations without taking any action.
Investigators, who are employed by the Department of Health Care Services, kicked 51 complaints upstairs to the Department of Justice and referred another 577 complaints to other agencies.
The state’s 14 investigators – one for every 32,100 in-home care recipients – also sought recovery of overpaid funds 70 times.
The Senate analysis of Evans’ bill notes that in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010, of the $4.1 million in overpayments found, $624,000 was recovered.
State, federal and local spending on in-home care totaled $5.3 billion – not counting administration of the program – during the same period.
The bill would also repeal another of the anti-fraud measures enacted in 2009: A prohibition on in-home caregivers using a post office box to receive paychecks.
“In many of our rural areas, P.O. boxes are often the only option for residents to receive mail,” the association of counties wrote in support of Evans’ bill.
“Limiting the use of P.O. boxes does not have a significant effect on fraudulent activities and, in fact, may harm the ability of counties and consumers to recruit and retain providers.”
Use of P.O. boxes makes it easier to engage in fraud, the district attorneys association counters.
As he does on nearly all bills, Brown has publicly taken no position on the measure. He has until October 9 to either sign or veto the bill.
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