Hospices getting billions from Medicare for patients who are not dying
HERE‘s a budding scandal that’s probably news to most folks:
Hospice patients are expected to die: The treatment focuses on providing comfort to the terminally ill, not finding a cure. To enroll a patient, two doctors certify a life expectancy of six months or less.
But over the past decade, the number of “hospice survivors” in the United States has risen dramatically, in part because hospice companies earn more by recruiting patients who aren’t actually dying, a Washington Post investigation has found. Healthier patients are more profitable because they require fewer visits and stay enrolled longer.
The proportion of patients who were discharged alive from hospice care rose about 50 percent between 2002 and 2012, according to a Post analysis of more than 1 million hospice patients’ records over 11 years in California, a state that makes public detailed descriptions and that, by virtue of its size, offers a portrait of the industry.
The average length of a stay in hospice care also jumped substantially over that time, in California and nationally, according to the analysis. Profit per patient quintupled, to $1,975, California records show.
This vast growth took place as the hospice “movement,” once led by religious and community organizations, was evolving into a $17 billion industry dominated by for-profit companies. Much of that is paid for by the U.S. government — roughly $15 billion of industry revenue came from Medicare last year.