27 December 2013

Hospice stays get longer, and corporate profits rise

From the Washington Post:
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...

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...

Some of those patients simply outlived a legitimate prognosis of six months.
But much of the data suggests that the trend toward longer stays is a response to the financial incentive... multiple allegations have arisen from former hospice workers who say that the businesses took in people who weren’t in declining health.
Much more discussion of this complicated issue at the link.

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