Recent Reports of Medicare Hospice Fraud Draw Reader Comments, Questions, and Concerns

In the past several months, several investigative reports (July 21 Bloomberg, November 16 Kaiser Health News, Nov. 18 San Antonio Express-News, Oct 18 Orlando Sentinel, Oct 13 Philadelphia Inquirer) from serious media outlets have detailed alleged manipulation and alleged fraud involving the Medicare hospice benefit — chronicling a health service that has risen from humble, altruistic roots to a sharkish $14 billion industry fueled by loosely guarded Medicare funds, controlled by Wall Street, and swarmed by marketers and salespeople.  It should come as no surprise that readers are outraged.  Below are just a few quotes from some of the comments gathered in response to the most recent report published December 5 by Bloomberg investigative reporter, Peter Waldman:

Many commenters focused on what they believe is nothing more than the typical corporate greed:

  • “Greed will eventually take everything precious away.”
  • “The most ultra-wealthy people I have ever personally met (picture $100K/month yacht maintenance expenses) are in the business of custodial healthcare for the elderly, indigent and mentally retarded.  All patients’ billings have always been fully covered by our wonderful government.”
  • “Government programs like Medicare would certainly be less wasteful if people didn’t abuse them and line their own pockets with money intended for good purposes. I don’t care how much incentive they had, these folks are despicable. Even more despicable are the healthcare professionals who recommended patients and attested to their eligibility. Not only did they participate in this rip-off knowingly and willingly, but with total disregard for patient welfare.”

Others blamed lack of oversight by the government, allowing such unscrupulous practices:

  • “These greedy doctors/businesspeople (and yes, they were morally wrong) couldnt have made this scheme work without the recklessness of government!  They had incentive to do these things because Medicare foot the bill.”
  • “Its like if a teacher left the test answers on his/her desk and left the room during the examination. YES the students who cheat are wrong for doing so, and their is no excuse for it.  But what kind of teacher would provide such strong incentive to cheat?  I don’t even want to know how much taxpayers paid for the 110,000 improperly admitted patients.”
  • “Observing the way our financially strapped federal, state and local governments are systematically raped by savvy executives is like watching someone steal silverware off the sinking Titanic.”
  • “Mostly, the money earned is technically legal and due to exploiting inefficiencies and vagaries in government bureaucracy.  But the mindset is anything but patriotic.  What shame.”

Others blamed corruption of the medical industry:

  • “This is clearly the medical industry that is taking advantage of the taxpayer.”
  • “The medical industry, pharmas, hospitals, doctors insurance companies are killing the poor and middle class. Period. Clear enough????

Still others concentrated on the effect that alleged gaming of the Medicare Hospice Benefit may have on the otherwise noble mission of hospice:

  • “Yes, there are some bad companies that may be taking advantage of the situation. But remember, there are thousands of hospices doing the right thing and they bring comfort, dignity and compassion to the dying and their family caregivers.  Don’t let bad players malign the entire field.”
  • “I remember Hospise before it was enveloped in government” garb.  It has changed drastically…wit the access to all the “free” services.”

While most concentrated on the possible effect upon patients themselves who need care but are apparently getting the wrong care in order to maximize profits:

  • “Just went through several months of hospice care with one of my parents. Two short nursing visits per week, 3 baths per week, most medication, and the chaplin twice a month for approx $4700 mo. in billing to medicare. This service will be the next big government episode of waste, fraud and abuse.”
  • “We lived through a gruesome hospice experience that killed our dad last year.  Try to get ANYONE to help or even bring notice of this fact to the public.  No one’s interested.  We were chased down by the medical insurance plan for years to enroll him in hospice.  Yes, a major benefit to THEM if we did.  He was dead in six weeks.  What more a perfect tool than Hospice??”
  • “Suddenly all those recent articles that advocate against ‘aggressive care’ take on a much more sinister tone.”

To report Medicare Hospice Fraud, contact Frohsin & Barger.