Politics & Government

Bill would require fingerprint background checks for nursing home workers

FRANKFORT — A measure that would require nursing homes to do thorough criminal background checks on all potential employees cleared a House committee on Thursday.

House Bill 250 would use about $3 million in federal money and $1 million in state matching money to do a fingerprint criminal background check on all employees of Kentucky long-term care facilities.

The background check would search databases for previous history of abuse and use fingerprints to check for criminal activity nationwide, said Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, and sponsor of the bill.

Long-term care facilities would not have to pay for the background check until the federal grant runs out in 2014. After that, long-term care facilities could either pay for the background checks or pass the cost to job applicants, said Mary Begley, the Inspector General for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Her office oversees the inspection of long-term care facilities.

Begley said the new system would do continuous criminal background checks on employees, not just when an applicant seeks a job. Begley said the office believes that 24,000 prospective job applicants could be served by the grant over the next two years.

State law requires long-term care facilities to conduct only name-based background checks for prospective employees who provide direct care. But the federal grant will help the Cabinet for Health and Family Services buy scanning equipment needed to get digital fingerprints that can be used for state and FBI criminal background checks.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administers the National Background Check Program.

Several Republicans expressed reservations about the bill on Thursday. The money was tied to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which could be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, said Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown.

Four Republican members opted not to vote or "passed" on the bill. Ten members voted in favor of the bill. It will now go to the House for a full vote.