Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
New firm snarls caregivers' pay After change made by state Department of Public Welfare
BY DAN NEPHIN, Staff Writer
Jamie Crump has worked as a direct caregiver for Marty Jameson for more than three years.
Jameson, 63, of Lancaster, needs care because a lack of oxygen to her brain while she was hospitalized in 1992 left her unable to care for herself.
And in the time she's worked for Jameson, Crump never had a problem getting paid through the agency that processed her pay.
But then the state Department of Public Welfare moved to consolidate the 37 agencies that had processed pay for the 25,000 people across the state who care for 20,000 elderly and disabled people into a single provider.
"With 37 different providers, you could imagine there were inconsistencies in how they did the payrolls and took the pay sheets," Donna Morgan, a department spokeswoman, said Wednesday.
The department awarded a two-year contract for $46.5 million to Public Partnerships in the fall so the Boston-based company could implement a more efficient system, according to Morgan.
So far it's been anything but efficient for Crump and other caregivers and the people they work for.
"It's been complete and utter chaos," said Crump, 28, of Akron,
Crump expected to get paid at the beginning of the year and halfway through January. But she didn't get her first check until Friday.
And her withholding had been changed to single, although she's married and has three children.
"I filled it out for them. It's not like they had to go get it from my other employer," she said.
She estimates she's spent some 50 to 80 hours trying to sort her pay out.
"I'm not just concerned about me. I'm concerned about everyone" -- other caregivers and patients, she said.
"It's very frustrating. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy," Crump said.
Jameson has three other caregivers in similar straits and she said she's concerned for them.
State Rep. Mike Sturla, a Democrat, said his office fielded calls from more than 30 different people with problems.
Several other caregivers and the people they care for told of problems similar to Crump's.
Jane Bellamy lives in Lancaster and relies on three caregivers.
One of her caregivers recently got a check, but only for $81.
"You can't live on nothing. What's this girl going to do?" Bellamy said by phone Tuesday.
Another of Bellamy's caregivers, Alberta Norford, 62, of Lancaster, said her hours were miscalculated, she's missing pay and she's being paid 50 cents an hour less than her rate since the change.
The welfare department and Public Partnerships say the problems are being addressed.
Morgan, the welfare spokeswoman, said the department is "very concerned with the caregivers not getting paid" and has been pushing Public Partnerships to resolve problems.
As of Wednesday, she said, "We're at the point where we have 80 percent of caregivers paid. That certainly is not good enough."
In a news release issued Wednesday, Public Partnerships said it received "a considerable amount of data that were inaccurate from many of the former 37 agencies that handled home care worker payroll. In many cases (the company) did not receive many required data elements at all."
Marc Fenton, president of the company, said in the release that it's "taking all measures to meet the needs of all consumers and their caregivers."
Spokeswoman Dina Baker said in a phone interview Wednesday that Public Partnerships has done transitions in 10 other states and had prepared for an increase in calls with questions or problems, but that Pennsylvania call volume has been "astronomically higher."
In response to being told of complaints that caregivers weren't getting calls back, she said staff has been making calls. She cautioned that multiple calls from the same person will slow the overall response.
Sturla questioned why a switch was needed and was skeptical about Gov. Tom Corbett's administration's ability to provide oversight to the lottery.
"If this is any indication how this administration does oversight of private contracts, heaven help the lottery," Sturla said, noting caseworker pay had been run successfully by private agencies until these changes.