You may find the answers to many of your questions in the agency’s explanatory literature, patients’ bill of rights, annual report, and other educational information it publishes. Seek out these documents online, or ask for written copies.
When researching a potential provider, find out the agency’s policies on the important matters mentioned below.
Charges and costs. Most questions and confusion arise over money matters, so be sure to get a good understanding of them up front. Request an itemized accounting of the agency’s charges — including whether there are likely to be added expenses for traveling to and from your home or for overtime hours worked. Find out how often bills will be sent and to whom, and whether there are minimum hourly charges for services. And ask whether Medicare, Medi-Cal, or other insurance plans cover the costs, and whether there are time or dollar limits to that coverage.
Worker qualifications. Find out how workers are supervised, what training they have, and whether additional ongoing training is required. And ask whether the agency screens its workers by investigating driving records and doing criminal background checks.
Emergencies. Providers should ensure that a nurse or other medical professional is available to handle questions in urgent situations around the clock, at least by phone, or will provide personnel for emergency home visits.
Insurance and taxes. Find out whether the service provides its workers with workers’ compensation, Social Security coverage, and medical and disability insurance. Agencies usually cover these costs as part of its hourly rate, but if not, the workers should be able to demonstrate proof of individual coverage.
Bond provisions. A bond provides compensation if caregivers steal money or property while on the job. Many companies are only insured for theft if it occurs in the agency offices and reported to police. A fidelity bond with extensions, however, would also provide coverage in the patient’s home.
Insurance. The agency should be covered for a minimum of $1 million in general liability and $3 million in professional liability.
Resolving problems. Be sure you understand the agency’s policies for resolving disputes or problems that might arise.
References. The best agencies will provide you with one of the best ways to evaluate their work: contacts with customers willing to discuss their experiences freely.