OIG backs Washington Post investigation that found 'hospice survivor' count has risen dramatically

HHS' Office of Inspector General released a report Thursday backing a 2014 Washington Post Investigation that found hospice companies recruit patients who aren't dying to boost profits.

Hospices are paid a daily flat rate for patients, so they can earn a greater profit on healthier patients who require fewer services, according to The Washington Post.

The newspaper looked into the issue in 2014 and found more than a third of patients were considered "hospice survivors" at hundreds of hospices around the country. Sometimes patients' health does improve unexpectedly, but according to The Washington Post, the rate of patients who leave hospice alive is typically around 15 percent. The newspaper observed high "hospice survivor" rates most often at new, for-profit hospices, according to the report. The highest rates were noted in Mississippi (41 percent) and Alabama (35 percent).

The OIG report released Thursday builds on the body of evidence. The OIG found many hospices had patients sign paperwork that did not make it clear the care provided would be palliative, or provide relief from pain, rather than curative. It also found physicians had limited involvement in determining if hospice care was appropriate for patients in 14 percent of hospice general inpatient stays.


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