UC-Los Angeles researchers yesterday released a study that concluded more regulation is needed among home health care workers in California.
"This is significant, because you're talking about delivery of care at home, in an unsupervised setting, to a population that is vulnerable," said Nadereh Pourat, director of research at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
"There is potential for problems here, and the goal is to see what safeguards are in place," Pourat said. "There's no guarantee that, with licensed or certified people, there will be no harm, either. But it can help provide a safe environment."
Pourat said home health aides are certified by the state and In-Home Supportive Services workers must undergo background checks.
But that's not even close to all of the home health workers in the state, Pourat said. "Anyone can hire someone," she said, through word-of-mouth recommendations or Internet sites. There's no licensure, she said, for non-health-related care, such as homemaking, shopping or cooking services.
The real problem, Pourat said, is that data is lacking on just how many non-licensed home care workers operate in California.
"It's a black box in terms of getting information and data on this group," Pourat said, "really, even estimating how many of them there are."
A bill is pending in the current session, AB 1217 by Assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), which would establish certification of home health workers. The bill has raised privacy concerns because it calls for posting of certification data -- including names of care givers -- online. Other concerns revolve around the possible rise in cost of home health services.
"The concerns expressed have validity," Pourat said. "Licensure can impact price. You're asking people for additional paperwork and effort."
But the reports of negative experiences can't be ignored, she said.
"I think some level of scrutiny is warranted," Pourat said. "You're looking at an important and growing segment of an industry that has no safeguards in it. How things get implemented could make a difference, but a minimal level is probably warranted."