House panel backs adult abuse registry bill

FRANKFORT, KY.— The House Health and Welfare Committee passed a bill Thursday to create an adult abuse registry, something long sought by advocates as a way to better protect elderly and vulnerable adults.

House Bill 259, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington, won unanimous approval and now goes to the full House, which passed a similar measure last year. It failed to pass the Senate.

HB 259 would create a registry similar to the existing child abuse registry, where adults found to have abused or neglected children are listed. People on that registry are barred from working in positions around children, such as at day care centers.

An adult abuse registry could be used by prospective employers, such as home health or personal care agencies, that hire people to care for adults. Employers could check the registry to determine whether an individual had been found to have abused, neglect or exploited an elderly or vulnerable adult.

Gov. Steve Beshear made the creation of such a registry a priority in his budget address earlier this month and proposes including $2.2 million over the next two years to develop and operate the registry within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Also on Thursday, the committee heard from a Lexington-based home health care agency that reported significant problems under the state’s new managed care system for Medicaid that took effect Nov. 1.

Representatives of Nurses Registry and Home Health, which provides Medicaid-funded home-health services for elderly people and disabled children, said they have been confronted by major problems in filing claims, getting services authorized and getting payment under the new system in which the state relies on three private companies to handle Medicaid services.

Pat Hagan, who manages children’s services for the nursing agency that serves patients in 16 counties, said many claims aren’t getting paid and she’s concerned about how long the agency can keep serving severely disabled children.

“A lot of children depend on what we do,” she said.

The agency is one of several providers that have approached lawmakers during the session to report problems with the new managed care system, which serves about 560,000 Medicaid members outside the Louisville region. Passport Health Plan, a separate non-profit manages care company, serves about 170,000 Medicaid members in Jefferson and 15 surrounding counties.

No representatives of the three managed care companies spoke at Thursday’s hearing.

Committee chairman Tom Burch, D-Louisville, said the committee may take the matter up next week if the problems aren’t resolved.

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To view this article by Deborah Yetter for The Courier-Journal please visit http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20120126/NEWS01/301260053/1001/rsslink