Hawaii health officials investigate unlicensed care homes

HONOLULU — Hawaii state health officials have investigated dozens of adult residential care homes statewide after receiving reports that the facilities were operating without licenses, officials said.

The state Department of Health has received 114 complaints about unlicensed homes, 74 remain open, Department Office of Health Care Assurance chief Keith Ridley told lawmakers Tuesday.

The effort to regulate these care homes comes after state legislators passed a law last year authorizing the department to investigate and enter unlicensed care homes, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

State officials have entered and inspected 52 homes so far with plans to issue 13 notices of violation to illegal operators, department officials said.

Licensed care home operators, case managers and long-term care navigators expressed concerns to lawmakers Tuesday stating unlicensed homes continue to open and that sometimes families are unaware that a home isn’t licensed, officials said.

We “continue to see new unlicensed care homes opening at a rapid rate,” CareSift CEO Nicole Coglietta said. “It appears that there were more unlicensed care homes that opened in 2019 than licensed care homes.”

Lawmakers have questioned whether there are enough facilities for seniors in need of care and whether shortages are helping fuel the underground market, officials said.

It is likely there are not enough licensed facilities for residents, Ridley said.

Some care home residents have lost thousands of dollars because health insurers do not cover unlicensed facilities, Coglietta said.

“Sometimes we have to move urgently because they submitted documents for reimbursement on their long-term care plan and didn’t find out they were in an unlicensed care home until their reimbursement was denied,” she said.

“It’s a shame that people will say, ‘Well the process takes too long,’ or ‘I’m too anxious and I’ve got a mortgage that I need to pay, and therefore I’m going to skirt the law and bring someone into my home that’s going to pay the mortgage,'” Ridley said. The process to receive a license currently takes about three to six months compared to the nine months it used to take, he said.


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