Review of News Article About
Exploitation of Hospice
For profit corporations are making money taking care of
hospice patients. Is that news? Well, it is if the patients are
the terminally ill, and if patients are being exploited to
achieve a big bottom-line. We at Hospice Patients Alliance
receive numerous complaints from families of hospice patients
from all over the country...complaints about lack of adequate
care, failure to assure patient comfort, failure to provide
complete information about services they are entitled to receive,
A June 14, 1998 article in the Washington Post, "Hospices Big Business, Thanks to Medicare; Exploitation
of some patients is alleged" written by Charles R.
Babcock, details how the system works for some for-profit
hospices. Salespeople are paid to go out and recruit patients and
to recruit doctors who refer patients. Commissions are being paid
to the salespeople who get more hospice patients signed up for
the hospice! Does this sound like "compassionate"
end-of-life care? .
The hospices get about $100 per day per patient for routine
home care. The article goes on to say, "hospice care now
serves 450,000 patients, grosses $2.5 billion a year and is
Medicare's fastest-growing benefit." "...an aging
U.S. population and the financial pressures of modern health care
have brought the marketing tactics of corporate America into the
cancer ward and cardiology unit."
"Things have changed so much in hospice since I started
10 1/2 years ago," said Geraldyne Habermehl, manager of
Hospice of the Sunrise Shore in Alpena, Michigan. "It was
pure hospice then. Now it's dog-eat-dog, dirty, competitive
fighting. It was a service thing before. Now it's a money
deal." Those who direct hospices know that Ms. Habermehl is
telling the truth when she describes it as "dirty,
competitive fighting." The public doesn't see this side
of hospice, but those who go behind the scenes and try to get
doctors, hospitals and nursing homes to refer to their hospice do
know. Hospices are competing for the dying. More dying patients
means more income, more money to make a profit, and provide
The article goes on to say, "Other recent developments in
the hospice industry also have drawn increased attention from
federal regulators, including evidence that some providers may be
exploiting the terminally ill and taxpayers alike. Recent
allegations of abuse suggest a "kind of innocence lost"
for hospice, said George F. Grob, a Deputy Inspector General at
the [U.S.] Department of Health and Human Services. Now, Grob
added, the industry is grappling with the fact that it has
"grown from a voluntary, philanthropic program to one where
business and other motives were coming into play."
And the article stated, "This Spring, the [U.S.]
Inspector General issued a "special fraud alert,"
warning that some hospices are suspected of paying kickbacks to
nursing homes in order "to influence the referral of
patients." In October, a federal grand jury returned the
first hospice fraud indictment by charging a Chicago man with
bilking the federal government by collecting more than $10
million in Medicare reimbursements while providing less than $2
million in hospice services to patients." One man,
"allegedly paid nursing homes $10 a day for each patient
signed up for hospice benefits with the assistance of compliant
doctors who certified them as terminally ill without an
The article goes on to say that, "Andrew Parker of
American Hospice Management said the for-profits will lead a
necessary consolidation in the industry. A brochure from
Parker's company states: "Hospice represents an
excellent opportunity for providers in many areas of the country
to enhance revenue, expand service profiles, and conserve
resources." The key to making money in hospice is
"volume, volume, volume," Parker says."
Well, if the American Hospice Management association is so
concerned about caring for the dying, why aren't they talking
about how to increase "service, service, service?"
They're not. It's a business. Time for all of us ordinary
citizens to wake up and see the health care industry as it
You can contact the Washington Post at their website located
at www.washingtonpost.com to get a copy of the original article
which was several pages long and has more information.