Under the Hat: Unintended Consequences - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Under the Hat: Unintended Consequences

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What we learned this week is what I believe is a lesson in unintended consequences, the idea that sometimes what sounds like a good idea at first might have some long term ramifications when thought all the way through.

I'm talking about a decision by Department of Public Welfare chief Gary Alexander.

DPW made what sounds like a reasonable policy change when it decided that agencies whose executives use home attendants can't then profit from home attendant programs.

It was seen by some as a smart, anti-fraud move.

Home attendants are the keys to independent living programs, allowing those with physical disabilities to get help with basic needs like showering and getting dressed.

They are usually brought in for an hour or so twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.

The state allows people to choose their own attendants, people they trust in their home, and then a local independent living agency like CRI or Voices for Independence oversees the business end like payroll and such.

Here's the hitch. When those agencies lost the ability to keep some program dollars for overhead they couldn't afford to stay in that business model. Clients would have to go to agency care providers or send all their payroll information to one of two designated companies, one in Philadelphia and the other in Pittsburgh.

That brings us to Rebecca Mirasovich, a home care attendant who called us to say she hadn't been paid in weeks.

She was so frustrated she was driving to Pittsburgh to ask the payroll company directly for her money.

Turns out 38 local agencies across the state had to get out of the client managed programs, creating a log jam in the payroll companies where 1500 attendants spent most of July without paychecks.

Stopping fraud is a good idea, but as Voices Executive Director Shona Eakin points out, why not go after the abusers instead of essentially destroying a system that has worked for 25 years?

Now some are wondering if denying an agency a chance to run a program because an executive is disabled violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This whole thing could end up in a federal lawsuit.

Unintended consequences, indeed.


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