In collaboration with Kaiser Health News, the New York Times recently reported on the concerns over the rising costs associated with hospice care. While Medicare is praised for its reimbursement of providers for hospice services because of the medical and emotional support hospice gives to dying patients, there are concerns that hospice is being misused. According to the article, four in 10 Medicare beneficiaries use hospice services before they die and the cost of hospice care has risen from $2.9 billion in 2000 to $12 billion in 2009.
In response to the growing anxiety that hospice is being abused, the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human services examined the provision of hospice services in nursing homes. The OIG found that hospices routinely failed to document whether the patients belong in hospice care or that the patients received the care they were entitled to. This discovery prompted the OIG to investigate any unusual patterns in hospice stays.
In light of this recent scrutiny of hospice costs, hospice providers should take extra precautions with regard to compliance programs and should consider conducting self-audits to identify potential risk areas within their organizations.
For more information on the regulation of the provision of hospice care, development of hospice compliance programs, or defense of audits related to hospice services, please contact a Wachler & Associates attorney at 248-544-0888.