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Hospice: Medicare and Medicaid Profit Center?

A national hospice company improperly cycled patients through nursing homes and hospice with a goal of making as much profit as possible from Medicare, according to a whistleblower lawsuit announced this week.

Healthcare lawsuits involving the various ways that the elderly can be taken advantage of turn up in the news on a daily basis these days. Why? Well, partly for political reasons and partly for the sheer number of egregious situations that have been created.

As an informed citizen/taxpayer, it’s important to think about and understand the big picture. However, as a family member, it’s vitally important to remember them for the sake of your elderly loved ones.

A new legal battle has begun to churn, as recently reported at Kaiser Health News. Yet another healthcare company is being accused of taking advantage of the elderly and their families to draw the greatest yield from Medicare and Medicaid coffers. Here a large company, operating across several states, is accused of actively recruiting and cycling patients through nursing home and hospice services.

Such companies are compensated by Medicare based on the length of time patients receive care. Medicare picks up the entire nursing home tab for the first 20 days (after that the patient has to contribute), and conversely, if a patient spends too much time in hospice care, Medicare demands their money back since the patient was clearly admitted to end-of-life care under false pretenses.

Here’s the rub: If you cycle between nursing home regimens and then jump into hospice care as early as possible (but not too early), Medicare will pick up the entire tab and for the maximum amounts, and that’s the issue.

The legal battles, as well as the politics and economics aside, stories like these also demand a certain amount of attention since they could directly impact your family.

If you have a loved one in need of nursing home and/or hospice care, it’s important that they find and receive that care… and that they not be abused by an uncaring system.

Reference: Kaiser Health News (January 4, 2012) “Lawsuit Accuses Company of Fraudulently Cycling Patients through Nursing Homes, Hospice Care.”

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