June 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Mich. health director: Home help aides to undergo criminal checks

Haveman )

Lansing— State Health Director James Haveman said Wednesday his department soon will have a screening and background check program for state-paid aides who provide in-home help for disabled Michiganians.

“This is going to be a revamped program,” Haveman said at a public appearance to promote Gov. Rick Snyder’s “4 by 4” healthy living initiative to fight obesity.

He responded to questions about a state audit released Tuesday that found nearly 3,800 convicted felons working as state-reimbursed home help aides under the Medicaid health care program for the poor. It’s jointly run by the state’s health and human services departments.

“We’ve got new people administrating and when it comes to ... criminal checks, we’re promulgating a new policy,” Haveman said. “It’s not going to allow people who’ve been charged with murder. It’s not going to allow people who’ve been charged with Medicaid fraud. They’re not going to be permitted to be part of this program.”

The scathing audit said the state’s Medicaid Home Help Program paid for 572 aides who had violent crime convictions, ranging from sexual assault to homicide, and 285 with sex-related convictions as of January 2013. An unknown number were relatives of the clients being served.

Michigan’s state audit office also questioned $160 million spent over three years in the home aide program without proper documentation.

Haveman said his department, while maintaining the undocumented spending estimate is substantially overstated, accepts responsibility for all of the findings and is fixing the shortcomings.

He disagreed with a claim from disability advocates and union members that a background check system had been in place but was eliminated when the Snyder administration disbanded a home care council under which home aides were forced to join the Service Employees International Union.

“I don’t think, to the degree that you might consider it, a background check was necessarily done,” Haveman said. “I think that the problem that the audit pointed out happened under the SEIU’s days and it happened under our days.”

Starting in 2005 under the administration of Gov. Jennifer Granholm and through May 2013, the SEIU collected more than $34 million in dues from home-based caregivers. The free market-oriented Mackinac Center for Public Policy heavily criticized the unionization effort as a “dues skim,” and the GOP-controlled Legislature voted to end the program that forced home care aides to pay the union including those tending to family members and close friends.

Haveman said he hopes to have a background check system ready to start in about a month. A complication in setting new policy, he said, is that some state-compensated home aides are family members who have paid for their misdeeds and are accepted by the relatives for whom they now care.

He said he believes those who’ve committed murder and rape should be barred even under those circumstances.

Haveman added that new rules also are necessary because home help has evolved — from a program heavily focused on state support for family members caring for loved ones to one in which care providers are paid to serve non-family clients.

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