New Oklahoma security law requires fingerprint‑based background checks on certain healthcare employees

Staggered implementation begins March 1

published in McAfee & Taft Healthcare Industry Alert | January 31, 2014

By Patricia Rogers

Beginning March 1, 2014, and phasing in over the next several months, a new Oklahoma law requires certain long-term care, residential, and health care providers to perform eligibility screening and national fingerprint-based background checks prior to employing individuals who will have direct access to patients and residents. The goals of the program include reducing the incidence of abuse, neglect and exploitation; providing an efficient and effective means for screening and conducting national background checks; and reducing misidentification due to name-based searches. The Oklahoma Long Term Care Security Act (HB 2582) mandated the program, which is being implemented by the State Department of Health.

Employers subject to the new background screening mandate

The new requirements apply to adult day care centers, residential care homes, nursing facilities, continuum of care and assisted living facilities, hospice programs, Medicare-certified home health agencies, intermediate care facilities for disabled adults, staffing agencies, and independent contractors who provide employees to staff these facilities and programs, and certain state employees.

How it works

Under the Act, employers are prohibited from hiring, retaining, or granting clinical privileges to individuals who have been convicted of designated criminal offenses, sanctioned by their applicable licensing body, or listed on offender registries.

Under the Program, providers will register and use the OK-SCREEN web portal to perform initial screening of applicants, obtain authorizations for fingerprinting, and receive determinations of employment eligibility. The initial screening will check a number of federal and state registries, including the OIG exclusion list, sex offender registries, and Oklahoma Child Care Restricted Registry, among others.

If the initial screening results show that the applicant is disqualified, the employer is prohibited from hiring that individual. If the initial screening results indicate that the applicant preliminarily qualifies, the applicant must agree to have fingerprints taken at an authorized site within 10 days. The applicant’s fingerprints will be run through a national criminal background check, and the employer will receive the results. The employer may only employ the applicant if he or she passes the fingerprint-based background check. Generally, an individual must only be fingerprinted once, and will be in the OK-SCREEN system for any future employment.

The new screening and background check requirements apply to any new job applicants who will have “direct patient access,” which means that the applicant’s job will or may involve one-on-one contact with a service recipient on an ongoing basis, including access to a patient or resident’s property, medical information or financial information. An employer is not required to perform the screening and background check on current employees.

Employers may conditionally employ, retain, or grant clinical privileges to an individual after the initial screening but prior to receiving the fingerprint-based criminal background check results for up to 60 days if the individual signs a written statement affirming that he or she is not disqualified for employment under the Act and acknowledging that he or she will be terminated if the criminal background check results do not conform with the Act. An employer must provide direct on-site supervision of a provisional employee.

Once an individual is in the OK-SCREEN system and has been fingerprinted, the program office at the State Department of Health will receive arrest reports and monitor any potentially disqualifying arrests. If an individual is convicted for a disqualifying arrest, the individual will be notified and required to inform the employer. As a condition of employment, all applicants must agree to notify an employer immediately upon being arraigned or indicted for a disqualifying criminal offense, which may be grounds for disciplinary action including termination.

Implementation Deadlines

All employers covered under the law may register now and begin using OK-SCREEN and request fingerprinting as of February 1, 2014. The mandated start dates for employers are:

  • March 1, 2014: Adult day care centers and residential care homes
  • April 1, 2014: Intermediate care facilities (for disabled adults)
  • May 1, 2014: Nursing facilities
  • June 1, 2014: Hospice programs, continuum of care facilities, and assisted living facilities
  • July 1, 2014: Medicare-certified home health agencies
  • August 1, 2014: Certain other employers identified in the Act

Staffing agencies and contractors who furnish staffing to employers must begin using OK-SCREEN based on the compliance date applicable to the particular provider.

If you have any questions about this stringent new screening process, please do not hesitate to contact any of our healthcare industry lawyers.

This alert has been provided for clients and friends of McAfee & Taft A Professional Corporation. It does not provide legal advice, and is not intended to create a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon information in this alert without seeking professional counsel.

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