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The Ohio Department of Health has proposed new administrative rules scheduled to take effect January 1, 2013 that will significantly impact the obligations of a home health agency (“HHA”) regarding background checks of its current and potential employees.

The new rules require HHAs to conduct criminal background checks on applicants before hiring and on all employees at least once every five years. HHAs must initially check current employees hired prior to January 1, 2008 no later than thirty days after the anniversary of the employee’s date of hire and employees hired on or after January 1, 2008 no later than thirty days after the fifth anniversary of the date of hire. Prior to conducting the required checks, the HHA must check six specified electronic databases. The new rules also enhance the list of “disqualifying offenses” and provide a tiered exclusionary period system based on the offense committed.

The new rules alter the definition of “direct care,” which will include skilled nursing care, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, medical social services, and home health aide services provided in a patient’s home. It further includes any activity that requires the person performing the activity to be routinely alone with the patient or routinely have access to a patient’s personal or financial documents. The new rule also broadens the term by applying it to “a patient” rather than merely “an older adult” as under the current rule.

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