It appears as though big business has inched its way into the hospice industry– the system intended to provide holistic medical care for patients with terminal conditions. Rather than provide services to ease the physical pain of patients and the emotional strain of their families, a recent study published in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics reveals how hospices desire for profits has eroded the fundamental principals behind the hospice movement.
With more than half of all hospices operating to turn a profit, some hospice operators look at Medicare’s reimbursement program as an opportunity to line their pockets by capturing as much of the government’s $143 daily payment rate— regardless of the type or scope of services provided.
The study’s author’s, Joshua E. Perry, assistant professor in the Department of Business Law and Ethics at Indiana‘s Kelley School of Business and Robert C. Stone, an emergency medicine physician and assistant medical director at Indiana University Health Bloomington Hospital Hospice essentially conclude that the current system provides an incentive for hospices to provide minimal care– as it would cut into the hospices profit margin.
Similarly, many hospices intentionally seek out patients with chronic conditions such as dementia as opposed to acute and rapidly progressive conditions such as cancer, because the there is an incentive for facilities to keep patients alive as along as feasible– and utilize the hospice annuity system that’s currently in place to rack up more profits.
Presently, there is little opportunity for families to learn the type of ownership behind the hospice operation as many operators have discretely infiltrated nursing home and have developed relationships where patients are routinely funnelled into their facilities.
Unfortunately, during a time when families should be focused on caring for their loved one, questions may need to be asked about the ownership configuration of the facility in order to secure the most competent and compassionate care for their loved one.
The Big (and Profitable) Business of Dying, Marlys Harris, CBS MoneyWatch.com May 21, 2011