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Home health care workers: family members

CINCINNATI (Jeff Hirsh) -- A Local 12 news investigation is getting results. We first told you about the insurance payment crisis facing home health aides in our area last week.

Many haven't been paid in weeks. Agencies, nursing homes, and suppliers are also waiting for checks in the mail. Since our series of reports, one insurance company is speeding up the payment process.

"I had a diving accident in 1993 which left me paralyzed from the chest down." Like so many other permanently disabled people, Tim Hymer has a home health care aide, who helps Tim with just about everything possible, like trying to keep his legs limber.

Like so many other aides across Ohio, Tim's aide, Jan Reid, is owed lots of money by an insurance company, for taking care of Tim. Some other aides are quitting and getting other jobs, but not Jan: "I can't quit. No I'll never quit"

That's because Jan is Tim's mother. The state of Ohio Medicaid program lets family members become independent, paid providers for disabled relatives. Tim's brother Randy is one of his providers too.

Paying family members to be aides, keeps Tim from having to go to a nursing home: "It allows him to be with people who care for him and will give him great care, rather than be in a home somewhere with people he doesn't know."

"I mean I have the people who care about me most. I'm getting the best care possible by family members." Just like providers who are not relatives, Tim's mom and brother are caught in the state of Ohio's change from state payment for home care services to insurance company payment.

Since June 1, Jan says she has only received two payments and Tim's brother just one from the Molina insurance company. "It's really frustrating because for both of them this is their income. And for my brother it's his sole source of income. Now late fees are piling up, overdraft charges, and he's only received a week's pay."

"The transition was really bad. The program wasn't ready to be placed into production." At least Tim's mom and brother have gotten some payments.  But Tim also has an independent home care nurse. She's not family. Jan says that nurse has not been paid anything since June 1: "She's got kids in college. She's got bills to pay. She has an orientation tomorrow for a new job. She can't afford to go this long without being paid."

Even though many providers are not being paid, they cannot file for unemployment insurance, because they are not unemployed. They're still on the payroll, even though they're not getting paid.

However, we are finally hearing of some people getting either full or partial payments, so perhaps the worst is over.  We'll keep checking. 

There are two insurance companies that are part of this program in Southwest Ohio: Molina and Aetna.  

In a statement, Aetna spokesperson Rohan Hutchings said "we are sorry that this situation has caused delayed payments to some health care workers. We have been working with health care agencies and providers to get payments out as quickly as possible."
 
Hutchings added the company has sped up the processing of payments and is letting providers know when their money should be coming.  He said the program has been running for only 60 days and they look forward to delivering quality care for Ohio.

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