- By Sue Campbell
The idea of hospice brings to mind easing of pain; attentive, calm care and a gentle hand-hold at life’s end. And while hospice care has been a help and comfort to countless dying patients and their families, it seems that even that most humane method of care is susceptible to corruption.
Huffington Post reporter Ben Hallman’s just-published, six-month investigation into the hospice industry has resulted in a disturbing exposé of fraud and abuses, mostly perpetrated by for-profit companies. (Next Avenue and HuffPost/50 are media partners, sharing some content.)
Hallman’s must-read piece, How Dying Became A Multibillion-Dollar Industry, details these findings:
- Hospice companies with illegally-obtained hospital records, insufficient documentation and inadequate training for caretakers
- More than 1,000 hospices haven't been inspected for more than seven years
- Since 2006, the U.S. government accusing nearly every major, for-profit hospice company of billing fraud
- Hospice employees being pressured into wrongfully enrolling patients and adjusting health records in order to obtain more government funding
Sad Details Reported
It’s horrific to learn of hospice employees fighting in a hospital hallway to see who can enroll a “last gasp” patient with merely hours to live, all so the hospital company can earn money from that patient’s very end-of-life care.
And it’s shocking to think of people who are not at the end of life being enrolled in hospice as a way for a company to receive Medicare payments.
One patient’s family tells how a hospice company wrongly medicated their mother, which caused a near-fatal reaction that they say led to her premature death. The kicker is the hospice company then allegedly reaped the benefits of receiving payments for her hospital stay as a result of the reaction.
Those truly in need of hospice care should, of course, consider its many merits and benefits. But now, rather than making an automatic decision, consider whether hospice is really needed, and consider carefully the company that will provide care.
The Huffington Post has made that easier, too, by including a link to check local hospices that are past due for inspections and/or have violations.
It’s disheartening to learn of abuses in the system, but the Huffington Post has done families already facing sadness and stress a huge service by exposing long-term corruption.