One of Connecticut’s largest home care agencies claims it’s in a David versus Goliath battle with the Department of Social Services regarding its new telephonic and computer-based in-home scheduling, tracking, and billing system.
The agency, Companions & Homemakers, serves about 1,350 of the 16,500 Medicaid clients who receive services in their homes. Companions & Homemakers says it was told on Jan. 3 that, as of Feb. 3, the state would no longer reimburse the company for its services because it is refusing use the new Electronic Visit Verification system.
In the meantime, the Department of Social Services said it would be transitioning its clients to other homecare agencies and no one would lose services.
“The Department is working diligently to ensure a smooth transition with no interruption to care,” according to a statement on the department’s website.
Jonathan Hunt, director of communications for Companions & Homemakers, pointed out that if the company ends its relationship with the state, then the relationships the clients have built up with their caregivers also end.
The goal is also to keep the same caregivers with the same clients by transitioning them to other agencies, according to DSS.
Hunt said the company doesn’t want this to happen and has been trying to communicate its concerns to the state for several months. But he said those concerns have largely fallen on deaf ears.
Companions & Homemakers sent the state a letter on Dec. 29, 2016, explaining its concerns with the new system, which is run by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Sandata Technologies LLC.
The agency said the system violates employee rights with regard to personally identifiable data, more specifically the five digits of the Social Security number workers are required to punch into the new system. There’s also a concern that it violates state and federal wage and hour laws and removes employers’ rights to control employee wages and information. Essentially, Companions & Homemakers says would have to rely on the state’s vendor for payroll information about its employees.
“We want to pay for the payroll system,” Hunt said. “We don’t want the taxpayers to have to pay for it.”
On Jan. 3, the department acknowledged receiving the Dec. 29 letter and notified Companions & Homemakers that they will be “terminated effective February 3, 2017.”
On Jan. 6, the Department of Social Services issued an update on its website about the new Electronic Visit Verification system.
“Only one of nearly 400 home-care agencies in the Medicaid program — Companions & Homemakers — has notified DSS that it refuses to comply with the new EVV system, aimed at ensuring accountability & eliminating over-billing in the Medicaid program,” the website states.
Hunt said it’s the only homecare agency large enough to suffer the loss of revenue and still survive.
The DSS “special update” posted on its website also disputes the company’s claim that the state is trying to impose a new payroll system.
“EVV was never designed as a payroll system nor has it been presented as such,” the website states. “Companions and Homemakers has provided no basis for their assertion that utilizing EVV would preclude them from recording the actual hours of their employees through other means to comply with the Department of Labor regulations.”
The state went on to dispute concerns about the requirement that employees use of the last five digits of their Social Security number in order to use the system.
“State law provides protection for employee individually identifiable information except where disclosure is required to comply with federal, state, or local laws or regulations or in response to a government audit,” the website states. “… Also the information collected will be used for audit purposes permitted under the statute as the information is being utilized to make sure employees are not double billing through two different employers for the same time period. The information will be safeguarded in a secure system.”
Hunt said Companions & Homemakers is not against the EVV system, “but a taxpayer-supported vendor program is not the answer.”
Companions and Homemakers’ and five other homemaker agencies unsuccessfully tried to get a Superior Court judge to stop the state from moving forward with the EVV system. In December, a judge found that the homecare agencies had not exhausted their communications with the state before bringing the action to court. Further, the state doesn’t have to adopt a regulation before implementing this change, according to Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s Dec. 15 decision.
The homecare agencies have asked the court to reconsider their arguments and a hearing on all remaining motions in the case will be heard 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11.
DSS moved toward using the EVV system to improve accuracy and enable better client support. DSS officials pointed out that Companions & Homemakers is the only agency that has refused to use the new system.