Majority of U.S. Hospice Centers Receive Failing Marks

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End of life care, known as hospice, is designed to provide comfort, pain relief, and support to those in need. However, a recent study performed by the Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Health and Human Services suggests that a vast majority of these facilities have failed to do so for some patients.

The nationwide survey found that between 2012 and 2016, health inspectors cited 87% of all hospice centers for deficiencies. 20% of all hospices surveyed were deficient enough to be considered an endangerment to patients. A deficiency is an indication that hospice failed to meet one or more Medicare prerequisites for providing proper care to a patient. These deficiencies include poor care planning, mistreatments, neglect, and inadequate quality control.

One of the largest issues with hospice care is the lack of information available to the public on citations and complaints. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is the source responsible and authorized to produce this information to the public. Currently, CMS does not make this information available through their online resource center, Hospice Compare. This is an issue for consumers because, without this information available, consumers are unable to make educated decisions on who to trust with their loved ones’ end of life care.

According to NPR, the Health and Human Services report also indicates that CMS has limited options for disciplining hospices. One of the only options would be for the Medicare program to drop a hospice facility entirely. This is a severe consequence that would most likely only be used in extreme cases. CMS is not currently authorized to carry out smaller punishments such as fines.

Although there are many great facilities available with the aim of making all of their patients and patients’ families comfortable, reports such as this recent report from the Health and Human Services should concern consumers. By holding negligent hospice facilities accountable, the end of life care industry will become safer for everyone and will give consumers more peace of mind when selecting care for their loved ones.