A recent wave of media attention to the shortcomings of hospice care – and the dangers they produce for patients – has prompted Congress to approve legislation subjecting such facilities to more frequent inspections.
As the Washington Post showed in a series this year, blogged about here and here, the hospice industry has grown significantly in recent years, and it doesn’t always uphold the original ideal of hospice care – minimizing patient pain and discomfort at the very end of life. It’s about comfort, not treatment.
Too often, hospice facility priorities are about quantity, not quality of care.
According to the Washington Post, passage of the bill means hospice agencies will have to undergo government inspections at least once every three years.
Currently, inspections occur about once every six years, and sometimes as many as eight years.
The legislation also requires closer scrutiny of hospices where too many patients live longer than six months. That’s the industry threshold for “end of life” care. If a lot of people at a certain hospice are living longer than six month, it’s a sign that the facility might be accepting patients they know aren’t close to death in order to make more money off of them for a longer period of time.
Most hospice revenue comes from Medicare, so there’s a public financial concern here as well as patient care.