HHS Report Highlights Fraud in U.S. Hospice Care

HHS Report Highlights Fraud in U.S. Hospice Care


A newly released report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General has found Medicare fraud and patient neglect in hospice care.

Hospice care is a much-needed service that bills by the patient and day, rather than by the number of services provided like other types of care. However, the type of service provided may be lacking in some circumstances. 

Nancy Harrison, lead author of the report and a deputy regional inspector general in the Department of Health and Human Services spoke to NPR and said "We found that hospices provide fewer services on the weekends than during the week. Far fewer, actually. And patients would have pain on weekends just as well as they have it on weekdays."

In addition to neglecting the needs of hospice patients, they have been routinely found to overbill or to bill for services that were not being rendered. Some hospice services have looked for patients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities because they can charge Medicare for a higher level of service even though the patients may not need that level of care. At least one hospice was billing for high-level care, but rather than providing that care they were only calling the patient’s family to ask how he was feeling. It is estimated that in 2012 alone Medicare paid $268 million for unnecessary and expensive inpatient hospice care for patients who did not require it.

In addition, hospices will sometimes advertise their services deceptively. They may highlight services such as cleaning or companionship rather than explaining the details of what hospice, and paying for hospice, actually includes or the seriousness of choosing to use the service. For instance, when a patient enters hospice care, they are waiving their right to Medicare payments for curative treatments. For someone who is not truly at the end of life, this can have devastating consequences.


Before considering hospice services for yourself or a loved one, evaluate the situation carefully and consider alternative services if it is not the appropriate time for hospice. 

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Catherine Marucci
Catherine Marucci

A dedicated writer of health, technology, and internet phenomenon news.

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