Wednesday, February 3, 2010

IHSS Community: Protect Your Rights, Protect Yourselves

Nancy Riley is the long-time in-home care provider for Michael Condon, a Vietnam veteran who was recently interrogated and threatened at his home by an armed state investigator questioning his IHSS benefits. This alarming incident demands a thorough investigation and I encourage anyone with a similar experience to report it immediately.

Legislation adopted last year calls for unannounced home visits to investigate suspected fraud. However, the legislation also required the Department of Social Services (DSS) to develop protocols for these visits. These protocols have not yet been developed, so it was a big surprise to find out that unannounced visits have already begun with no guidance in place to protect anyone involved. It was also a surprise to find out that the Department plans to purchase Polaroid cameras to photograph IHSS recipients.

These protocols will ensure that home visits are conducted in such a way to protect the integrity of the IHSS program while respecting IHSS clients and providers. DSS has committed to undertaking the requisite stakeholder process, and the Legislature will monitor it to ensure that it does.

In the meantime, I believe these unannounced visits may not yet be legal. Photography is certainly not authorized by law. The governor himself requested this new law and signed it. Now, his administration must abide by it.

Until the home visit protocols are finalized, there is an opportunity for scam artists posing as investigators to come into the homes of IHSS recipients and defraud or abuse them. Therefore, I want to alert everyone in the IHSS community to take the necessary steps to protect yourselves. Confirm the identity of anyone claiming to be a fraud investigator before allowing them to enter your home.

If you are a provider or consumer with concerns about a visit from a fraud investigator, please call the Department of Health Care Services toll free at 1-800-822-6222.