Potential For-Profit Hospice Abuses

I just found this article on Bloomberg: Preparing Americans for Death Lets For-Profit Hospices Neglect End of Life

It talks about a disturbing possibility of abuse by some for-profit national hospice chains in their attempts to maximize profits at the expense of dying patients.  I don’t have time to comment on this right now (since I just finished my last post) but suffice it to say I’m glad this is being investigated.  Big Money realized there was a profit bonanza coming in end-of-life care back in the early 2000’s and positioned themselves by snapping up all the small hospices they could buy.  I felt deeply uneasy at the time because I worried they might start “streamlining” in order to maximize profits.

While things are never as simple as they appear, this seems to bear out at least some of my fears.  I hope this doesn’t turn anyone away from seeking hospice care.

One possible answer to the problem is a move to “concurrent care” where a person can receive both curative treatment and end-of-life care simultaneously.  I realize that might seem contradictory, but in two studies done by Aetna insurance where terminally ill patients were allowed both ongoing treatment and palliative and hospice care, it turned out access to both programs actually cut emergency room visits by half, and hospital and ICU visits by two thirds.  Overall costs dropped by almost 25%.  And most importantly, the people in the studies reported much higher levels of satisfaction with their care.

copyright Dia Osborn 2011

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