Home-care workers waiting for late pay

Posted: January 29, 2013

Eugene Govan, a home-care worker for a disabled man in North Philadelphia through a state-run Medicaid program, has not been paid since last month.

Govan and others who work directly for 22,000 disabled and elderly Pennsylvanians have been caught in a messy consolidation of payroll services from 37 entities across the state to just one Boston firm.

The problems have left some home-care workers - who are paid $10 to $12 an hour to help with dressing, bathing, and other needs - feeling compelled to work for weeks without pay.

"If it's a construction company, and you don't get paid, you just walk away," said Govan, who has been caring for the same person since 2006. "You got a client who's in need of care - you can't just walk off," he said.

In October, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare awarded a $46.4 million contract to Public Partnerships L.L.C. covering the 27-month period from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2014. Public Partnerships, the Boston firm also known as PPL, provides similar services in 21 other states.

Under the prior arrangement, 37 payroll providers were paid $21 million to provide payroll services in fiscal 2011, not including wages for the caregivers, according to DPW. Some of the previous payroll providers wanted to keep the business, but were scared off by the financial burden.

During a question-and-answer session on the contract last year, DPW officials said the agency would not advance money to the contract winner, yet PPL received $18 million for its first pay period.

"We do periodically give out monetary advancements to ensure that there is money there," DPW spokeswoman Anne Bale said Monday in an e-mail.

The advance is to be recouped by deducting $900,000 from weekly payments to PPL between Feb. 13 and June 26.

Dina Wolfman Baker, a spokeswoman for PPL, attributed the transition problems to inaccurate information received from the state's payroll providers under the old set-up.

Baker said that significant progress had been made in the last week.

"We've paid 87 percent of the valid time sheets received" as of Sunday evening, she said. Last week, that figure was "nearly 80 percent," according to a Jan. 23 statement posted on PPL's website.

Home-care workers and their disabled clients have complained about poor service from PPL, such as not receiving information packets needed to get signed up with PPL and the inability to reach anyone on the phone.

"It has nothing to do with our human capacity to handle the calls," Baker said. There have been technical problems with the phone system. "We're addressing it as aggressively as we can."

German Parodi, a 28-year-old quadriplegic who lives in Juniata Park and is an activist on issues affecting the disabled, said his two attendants have not been paid since PPL took over the service in December.

The Temple University junior rejected the notion that there are problems with his records. "I know my records are fine. I keep up with it," he said.

Rep. Mike Hanna (D., Centre) on Monday called for an investigation by Attorney General Kathleen Kane and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale of the delay in payments.

Contact Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.


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