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What you don't know about your temporary staff could hurt you

Posted by Margaret Scavotto, JD, CHC on 10/22/14 5:02 PM

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Do you rely on staffing agencies to provide temporary staffing for your organization? If so, are you confident that these staffing agencies are sending you personnel who have been sufficiently screened?

Reliance on staffing agencies is essential for providers seeking to comply with staffing ratios and requirements. Reliance on staffing agencies is also not without risk, and a process to be managed.

For example, when you hire a new employee, you likely conduct a background check, verify the person's license status (if applicable), and check to make sure the employee is not an excluded provider. You likely expect your staffing agencies to conduct the same screens of employees--but how can you be sure this is really happening?

If a staffing agency is not diligently screening its personnel, and sends you an individual with an expired or probated license, or who is on the OIG excluded provider list, you could have false claims on your hands. Medicare and Medicaid won't pay for health care services provided by excluded providers--nor will they pay for licensed services, such as nursing services, provided by a nurse without a current, valid license. Every day that such an individual works for you, false claims penalties accrue.

MPA recommends a 3 Belts & Suspenders approach to to ensuring your temporary staffers are up to speed:

Belt #1: Require staffing agencies to screen all temporary staff. Ask them what screens they conduct. Do they match the screens your company requires for its employees? Background checks? License verification? OIG screening?

Belt #2: Document these screens in your contract with the staffing agency. Your lawyer can help.

Belt #3: Audit the staffing agency's screening process on a monthly, quarterly, or annually basis--as frequently as needed for you to be certain screens are being conducted.

...and finally, the Suspenders: Screen temporary staff through your own Human Resources department's employee screening process. If you use software to conduct monthly screens of your employees and contractors, it will not be much extra work to add the temporary staff.

Three belts and suspenders may seem redundant--until you consider the stakes: providers who bill Federal health care programs for services provided by an excluded provider can be assessed a Civil Monetary Penalty of up to $10,000 per claim, and risk joining the list of excluded providers themselves.

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Topics: Excluded Providers

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