Posted by: Jennifer A. Johnson
When a loved one enters hospice care, the whole point is to provide peace of mind and comfort to the patient and the family. Unfortunately, due to a lack of regulation, oversight, and available information regarding hospice care the result is sometimes disappointing.
The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Inspector General has found that between 2012 and 2016, health inspectors cited 87% of hospice care agencies for deficiencies. In 20% of hospices, these deficiencies were rated as serious – serious enough to endanger patients. For-profit hospice agencies are more likely to appear on the list than non-profit agencies, likely because decreasing staff can increase profit margins.
There aren’t many options for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to discipline hospices. They can drop hospices from the Medicare program, but they can’t assess fines or install temporary management. Many complaints can’t be substantiated, and even when they are, that information doesn’t become readily available to consumers. CMS could make citations for deficiencies and complaints public on their website for consumers, Hospice Compare, but they currently do not.
The CMS Inspector General has recommended that legislators strengthen hospice standards, increase inspections, streamline the complaint and investigation process, and improve accountability and availability of information. Whether we will see improvements in the near future remains to be seen.
Currently, families can help a loved one choose a hospice program by investigating all available hospice options. Many times, more than one hospice program is available, and those programs will often have different levels of staffing and different supplemental services. Asking local doctors about their experiences with the hospice providers and families who have had loved ones in hospice is also a good way to narrow down the choices.
Choosing long term care for a loved one can be challenging. We help families find good long-term care and work with them on how to pay for the care. If you would like to talk about your needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
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