Hospice care has seen a tremendous spike in growth since the turn of the century. An investigation by the Huffington Post reported not too long ago that the size of the hospice care industry had quadrupled since 2000. Now, the publication revealed almost half of all terminal Medicare patients die in hospice. In addition, the industry has come under attack for allegedly using underhanded and dishonest practices in an effort to bilk the Medicare system for as much money as possible.
The purpose of a hospice is to provide comfortable end of life care for those who have six months or fewer to live. According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the mission is to enhance the quality of the end of patients’ lives. However, many families claim that their loved ones did not need hospice care and were recruited in an effort to inflate Medicare billings.
The Huffington Post told the story of a family who was misled about the purposes of hospice care, focusing on aspects such as free medications and at-home nursing care. What they didn’t mention is that hospice doesn’t provide curative treatments, meaning it isn’t a place where you go to get healthy. The family alleges that once their elder loved one was enrolled, she was given “a powerful cocktail of drugs, against the family’s wishes, and repeatedly bumped her up to the most intrusive and expensive levels of care,” according to the Huffington Post.
In addition, the family was led to believe the hospice was going to provide life saving services, which is the opposite of what it provides. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence, as hospice care is now a $17 billion industry.
Based on testimony from multiple federal lawsuits, hospice marketers swarm rehab centers and doctors’ offices around the country, scrambling to sign up patients who sometimes just have hours left to live. Apparently, hospice companies literally fight over who gets to sign these exploited patients. The Justice Department has taken notice, suing more than one dozen hospice companies since 2006. In these cases, prosecutors accuse these hospices for overbilling, refusing to discharge patients and fraudulently enrolling people who were well enough to play golf.
Sadly, taxpayers are footing the majority of the bill for this. Medicare is government funded and pays nearly 90 percent of all hospice care claims. Even further, in many of the lawsuits against hospice care agencies, families claim their directives were not followed.
When healthcare facilities abuse the system, ultimately it’s the taxpayer and the exploited families who end up paying the price. Make sure you speak up if you see something that’s not right.
The qui tam attorneys at Begelman & Orlow, P. C. have more than 115 years of combined experience litigating whistleblower cases throughout the U.S. If you have knowledge of any fraudulent activity, wrongdoing or mishandled spending, contact the whistleblower lawyers at Begelman & Orlow, P. C..