End-of-life care is a growing industry in America with the number of hospices increasing by 43% from 2006 to 2016. With this massive growth, oversight has been overlooked and many Americans are receiving inadequate end-of-life care according to a report released by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The OIG report details as hospice care expands, so has Medicare fraud in the form of inappropriate billing and other schemes. In 2012 alone, hospices frauded Medicare out of $268 million through inappropriately billing inpatient care.
Furthermore, the report found the level of care in many hospices to be inadequate. Hospices are incentivized to minimize services and find Medicare beneficiaries who require limited medical care. Weekend care is of particular concern as the level of care drastically drops on Saturday and Sunday with only 7% of care occurring on the weekend.
Hospice care nightmares have been extensively detailed with hospice staff abandoning patients and families as their loved ones suffer at the end of their life. A 2016 Kaiser Health News investigation found families filed over 3,200 complaints to state officials in a five-year period. However, a shockingly low number of facilities were punished for neglecting patients and providing inadequate care.
So, hospice care has a two-pronged problem, Medicare is being defrauded out of billions and hospices lack the proper oversight to ensure proper care.
The OIG offers solutions from increasing the quality of information available on hospice centers to seeking more authority to punish poorly performing hospices. It is abundantly clear that more needs to be done to serve senior citizens and others approaching the end of their life. If fraud can be reduced through punishing offenders then hopefully the government can put those dollars toward providing those seeking end-of-life care with the decency and respect they deserve.
Currently, Medicare offers a service called Hospice Compare which can be used to find experiences from families at hospices in your area.
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