Politics & Government

House OKs bill requiring background checks for nursing home workers

FRANKFORT — The state House approved a measure Tuesday that would allow long-term care facilities to complete fingerprint background checks on potential employees.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services has received a $3 million grant from the federal government to start the fingerprint background check. The state will also kick in $1 million in matching funds.

The House approved the bill 62-36, with many lawmakers expressing concerns about the cost of the program when the grant runs out in three years. It could cost anywhere between $60 and $80 for a background check after funding dries up.

Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, said because the federal funds come from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court, he is concerned about the source of the funding.

Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington, R-Fort Wright, said it typically costs a little less than $40 to get a fingerprint background check. Webb-Edgington questioned why it would cost an additional $20 to $40 for the fingerprint check proposed in House Bill 250.

Currently, long-term care providers must do a name-based background check. However, those background checks only look at state records. A fingerprint check can search nationally for criminal records.

Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, said there are increased up-front costs because there will be continued monitoring of an employee's criminal history.

Rollins, who sponsored the bill, said the facility could also choose to pass on some of the cost for the background checks to potential employees.

Rollins said he is not sure how HB 250 will fare in the Republican-controlled Senate. He plans to talk soon to Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, the chairwoman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, where the bill will likely be assigned.

Also on Tuesday, the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee approved House Bill 259, which would create a registry of employees who work with adults who have had substantiated cases of abuse or neglect.

Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington, said people who have had substantiated cases of abuse, neglect or exploitation often never face criminal charges. The measure is being pushed by many adult care workers, who say there is no way for them to know if a potential employee has had a substantiated case of neglect or abuse against them.

There is a similar registry for child care workers. HB 259 now goes to the full House for a vote.