20% of hospice programs have serious care deficiencies, says HHS

About 1 in 5 hospice programs participating in Medicare have had serious deficiencies that threaten patient safety, according to a two-part report released July 9 by HHS' Office of Inspector General.

Four things to know:

1. Federal health inspectors cited 87 percent of hospices nationwide for care deficiencies between 2012 and 2016. In addition, nearly 20 percent of hospice programs had serious deficiencies that could harm patients, the OIG found.

2. The general public is not always aware of these issues, since CMS does not post which hospice facilities have been cited for care deficiencies on its Hospital Compare site, according to NPR.

"We live in a time when we don't even think about booking a hotel without checking its ratings and reviews," Deputy Regional Inspector General Katherine Harris told the publication. "Why do we demand less for hospices?"

3. The report also notes that CMS lacks the power to adequately discipline underperforming hospice programs. The agency can remove hospice facilities from the Medicare program but does not have legal authority to assess fines, according to NPR.

4. CMS responded to HHS' reports in a written statement to NPR, saying the agency "has zero tolerance for abuse and mistreatment of any patient." The agency also noted it added consumer feedback on hospice programs to its Hospital Compare site.

To view HHS' full report, click here.

More articles on post-acute care:
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400 nursing homes 'substantially fail' to meet care standards, Senate report finds
Whistleblower reveals cover-up at Kentucky nursing home

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