Monday, June 23, 2014
Hospices seek to provide care for individuals who are at the end of their lives. The principal objective of hospice care is to make patients comfortable with a focus “on enhancing the quality of remaining life.”
Over the past decade the hospice industry has experienced an incredulous shift; what once was a collection of mostly small, religious-affiliated nonprofits is now a booming, $17 billion industry dominated by national chains. These large companies have been very effective in expanding hospice’s reach. More than one million people die each year while receiving hospice services in the U.S., “Nearly half of all Medicare patients who die now do so as a hospice patient—twice as many as in 2000, government data shows.”
Despite this booming business, evidence indicates that many hospice providers are imperiling the health of patients in order to increase revenues and enroll more people. Patient families, hospice whistleblowers and even federal prosecutors have alleged that hospices are compromising quality and endangering patients by enrolling people who do not qualify into the service. Various lawsuits and complaints state that health directives were ignored and loved ones received too many medications, or not enough.
An analysis of Medicare survey data found that the average hospice has not undergone a full certification inspection in 4 ½ years and nearly 22 percent of hospices have not been inspected in over six years. Contrastingly, under federal law, nursing homes must be inspected ever 15 months.
See Ben Hallman, How Dying Became A Multibillion-Dollar Industry, Huffpost, June 19, 2014.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.