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Hospice centers accused of possible fraud

Hospice care is something that a lot of Minnesota families do not like to think about but at some point or another many will rely on hospice services to care for a loved one. When one does choose a hospice facility, families generally look for the best in the area and try to do their utmost to make sure their loved one is receiving appropriate care for their end-of-life needs.

A new study on hospice care and patient experiences uncovered some surprising information about the hospice system in the United States. Mainly that many hospice facilities are seeking out patients who are still quite healthy and may not need to go to the facility for their end-of-life needs. In fact, the rate at which people are discharged from a hospice has risen by 50 percent over the past ten years, raising questions about whether these facilities may be defrauding government programs that pay for hospice care.

Medicare fraud is a big issue that impacts not only federal budgets but also families here in St. Paul. When healthcare providers are committing fraud instead of acting in the best interest of patients, our loved ones may suffer.

In the example of hospice care, facilities with longer term patients may be subject to overcrowding, particularly if they are taking on healthier patients with the intent of bringing in more revenue. In that situation, individuals who are truly ill and in need of constant medical care to keep them safe and comfortable might experience less attention from staff or longer wait times for help when they need it.

Families who are concerned about hospice misconduct or healthcare fraud may want to seek legal advice on the matter.

Source: Washington Post, “Hospice firms draining billions from Medicare,” Peter Whoriskey and Dean Keating, Dec. 26, 2013.