An app to track home health care aides has unintended effects

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They’re called electronic visit verification apps, or EVVs. They log the hours and the movements of home health care workers paid for by Medicaid. States are just starting to roll them out as part of an Obama-era program that promised to make managing the work of home aides more efficient and reduce fraud in the system.

Virginia Eubanks is the author of “Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor.” She’s been following Arkansas’ implementation of EVVs and wrote a story about it for the Guardian newspaper with Alexandra Mateescu. Eubanks said the state’s app has been glitchy, which led to missed paychecks for aides. She told me about LeDanté Walker, who relies on a home health care worker. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Virginia Eubanks: [Walker] had a predictably difficult time getting signed up that quickly. Once he got into the system and bought his care worker an extra cellphone so that she could use the app, her first paycheck was missing. And in the end, she was out $900 for two weeks [of] work. He spent every single dime in his rainy day fund to keep her afloat, and he says it was total chaos.

Meghan McCarty Carino: One of the features that you write about of these apps that seems particularly problematic is they can track where workers are with geofencing in an attempt to cut down on fraud or to sort of note where these workers are. But this can sort of backfire, right?

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