Lax oversight of home health care

09/07/12 at 2:55 am

Aleydis Llovet, 42, was burned by scalding water that her home attendant gave her at her Staten Island home. A quadriplegic, Llovet sued the agency that sent the attendant for negligence. (Photo by Matt Drange/Albany Times Union)

Matt Drange, Stabile ’12, published his master’s project in the Albany Times Union on Sunday. He first reported on New York’s expanding home health care system last fall, and continued his investigation throughout the spring semester as part of his classwork for the Stabile Center.

An alternative to nursing home and hospital care, home care agencies experienced rapid growth in recent years, taking in billions in Medicaid reimbursements from the state along the way.

Drange’s story revealed that many agencies were found by the state to have a history of providing substandard care, which led to patients being readmitted to the hospital and, in some cases, death. Agencies were often cited for repeat deficiencies in inspection reports, yet the state’s department of health allowed them to remain open and continue caring for patients in need of short and long-term assistance.

The story found that while the number of patients seeking home care services was increasing, the number of state inspectors decreased. Fines issued by the state, meanwhile, were few and far between, and the state often took no other enforcement action against troubled agencies. In some cases, agencies that lied to the state in order to meet inspection requirements were given a pass.

Drange reviewed thousands of pages of state inspection reports for the story, used court records to find instances in which agencies were sued, and analyzed data on survey frequency, Medicaid spending and fines issued by the state. He interviewed current and former state officials and agency employees, and spoke with dozens of patients and home care aides and attendants. He found Aleydis Lovet, who was burned by the  scalding  water given to her by her home health care attendant. (To read Llovet’s story, go here.)

Matt continued working on the story after graduation, with support from the Stabile Center. He completed the story under the direction of his project adviser, Charles Ornstein.

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