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36 Health Care Service Firms Cited $240K in Penalties for Alleged Consumer Protection Violations

New Jersey

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has issued Notices of Violations (NOVs) to 36 health care service firms statewide seeking $242,850 in civil penalties for alleged violations of the statutes and regulations governing agencies that place caregivers in the homes of senior citizens and the disabled who need their services.

The violations cited against the firms range from improper record keeping and failure to establish a patient Plan of Care (POC), to sending uncertified or otherwise unqualified caregivers into patients’ homes.

“People paying for in-home health care services for their loved ones have a right to expect those services will be tailored to meet their loved ones’ needs, and will be provided by qualified individuals working under proper supervision,” said Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino. “Firms that fail to meet these standards are not only violating the trust of their clients, they’re breaking the law.”

Health Care Service Firms (HCSFs) are defined as businesses that “place or arrange for the placement of personnel to provide companion services, health care, or personal care services in the personal residence of a person with a disability or a senior citizen age 60 or older.”

The firms must be registered with the Division of Consumer Affairs, and are inspected and investigated for compliance by the Office of Consumer Protection’s Health Care Service Firm Investigative Unit. The Unit was formed in 2014 to ensure that a cadre of investigators with specialized knowledge could undertake meaningful investigations to protect vulnerable senior and disabled population receiving services in their homes.

The Unit’s investigators cover the entire State of New Jersey handling initial and follow up inspections of over 1,000 HCSFs and undertaking investigations of HCSFs when they appear to be violating the law. The NOVs announced today are a result of inspections and investigations conducted by the Unit.

The 36 agencies were assessed penalties ranging from $1,000 to $23,850 for a variety of alleged violations that fall into three categories:

Patient Record Violations, include no POC in a patient file, POC not established by an appropriately licensed person, failure to assess the POC every 30 or 60 days, and failure to ensure that the Certified Homemaker-Home Health Aide’s (CHHHA) qualifications were properly matched to a patient’s needs.

Caregiver Record Violations, includes failure to include a one-year employment history on employment application, failure to include applicant’s malpractice insurance policy number on employment application, and failure to include names of former supervisors on employment application.

Additional Miscellaneous Violations, includes failure to register with the Division of Consumer Affairs, failure to employ a licensed Health Care Practitioner Supervisor, failure to properly verify the license or certification status of each employed individual, and failure to inquire of all employers on employment application for reasons of departure.

Certain firms on the list have cooperated with the Division of Consumer Affairs by entering into Consent Orders for the payment of penalties.

Each of the firms receiving an NOV has the opportunity to contest the assertion that it has violated the law, or the opportunity to correct the violation by ending from any practices in violation of the law, paying a civil penalty, and submitting an application for registration, if not registered.

Advice for Consumers Seeking a Health Care Service Firm for At-Home Care:

Consumers seeking assistance from a firm for at-home care should contact the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs to ensure that the firm is registered with the Division, and whether it has been the subject of consumer complaints. Consumers should also ask the Division to verify whether individual nurses or CHHAs provided by the agency are licensed or certified by the State Board of Nursing.

Consumers can find additional information in these documents, available free of charge at the Division’s website:

Consumer Brief: Certified Homemaker-Home Health Aides (CHHHA)

A Consumer’s Guide to Homemaker-Home Health Aides (CHHHA)

Investigators Ronald Regen, Barby Menna, John Kulina, and Ray Yee of the Office of Consumer

Protection’s Health Care Service Firm Investigative Unit conducted these investigations.

Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.