What it means to be a licensed Home Care Agency in Washington State
Healthcare in Washington State is one of the most regulated industries in the country. A benefit of regulation is that there are laws to protect the elderly and the consumer from fraud and abuse.
In Washington State there is also a very high degree of state supervision of licensed home care agencies backed up by random, unannounced inspections and field audits. The state also sets high standards for minimum levels of professional and liability insurance and criminal background checks that must be proven and reviewed every two years.
The goods news about Washington State’s high levels regulation, supervision and oversight is that there are very high standards of care. The bad news is that it costs more to deliver. While some consumers may be tempted by the lower costs of ‘independent’ caregivers, this is not a true apples-to-apples comparison.
Independent Caregivers, while licensed by the state, are not subject to the high degree of state supervision and oversight that is directed towards licensed Home Care Agencies. In addition, independent caregivers are not required to carry liability insurance so consumers are at risk should there be a mishap.
When using an independent caregiver, state and federal employment laws apply to the family that hires the caregiver. What that means is that you, in essence, become their employer and must therefore comply with federal and state employment laws and collect and pay employment taxes.
Just as there are cost-conscious consumers that are willing to cut financial and legal corners, there are independent caregivers that are willing to cut corners, too! Self-employed caregivers are not audited by the state to see whether they have been for paying workman’s compensation insurance. In many cases, earning go unreported or under reported and the required taxes goes unpaid as well.
A prudent consumer should bear all of these costs and risks in mind when choosing a reliable source of quality care. When choosing a licensed Home Care Agency in Washington State, you can be assured of quality, value, and protection from accidents and mishaps.
If you decide on in-home care, there are several questions you should ask to ensure that your loved one will stay safe, healthy and happy:
- What happens if you or your caregiver becomes ill or are otherwise unavailable? What are the alternate arrangements?
- Is there always someone to answer the phone - 24hrs a day, 7 days a week?
- Is there a minimum service commitment required or may I use as little as one-hour of service?
- Do you pay your federal and state taxes, Social Security (FICA) and unemployment insurance, so that our family is not legally responsible?
- Can you verify that you and your caregivers are legally able to work in the United States?
- If you or your caregiver are injured at a client's residence, who is responsible? (Many homeowner's insurance policies exclude injuries to "domestic employees.")
- Do you perform criminal background checks and state abuse registry checks? Do you check caregivers' references from prior work history?
- Are you bonded or insured in case one of your clients is injured or there's a theft?
- How do you document that your services were indeed completed?
- How do you monitor in real-time that care is being delivered?