Home care consumer protections proposed

The Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony Jan. 21 on a bill that seeks to enhance protections for individuals who receive in-home care services.

Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, sponsor of LB698, said the measure was the result of a recommendation from the Legislature’s Aging Nebraskans Task Force. The bill would create the Home Care Consumer Bill of Rights, which would apply to individuals 60 and older, those 18 and older with a disability and the parent or guardian of a minor who receives home care services.

Mello explained that the bill essentially was the same as a proposal that he introduced last session to protect consumers of home care services. The measure was advanced to general file, he said, where a decision was made to repurpose that bill into a vehicle for another proposal.

“My goal with LB698, as it was with [the previous bill], is to ensure that the rights of Nebraska’s vulnerable populations—such as the elderly and disabled—are protected when they have the assistance of someone else in their home,” Mello said.

A consumer of home care services, or the parent or guardian of a consumer who is a minor, would have the right to:
• refuse service;
• have grievances addressed in a timely manner;
• participate in the approval of services and any changes in service;
• receive care in a way that promotes his or her dignity and individuality; and
• information on the cost of services and whether those costs are covered by insurance or a public or private program.

An individual who violates the bill’s provisions would be subject to a civil penalty of $100 per violation, up to a maximum of $1,000.

Mello said it is a growing concern that seniors and others often employ caregivers without realizing that they are considered contract employees, which can involve significant liabilities.

“The biggest issue is the relationship with the employee and if they are an employee of an agency or a contractor of the consumer,” Mello said. “That was clearly the main concern we heard from a consumer perspective.”

Michaela Valentin, representing Home Instead Senior Care, testified in support of the bill. If a caregiver is a contract employee—rather than an employee of an agency—the consumer is responsible for taxes, payroll and scheduling and has no recourse for theft or property damage, she said.

“It’s important for the client and the clients family to know what kind of employee will be handling the in-home care,” Valentin said.

No opposition testimony was given and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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