FutureFocus August 8, 2018

Lisa Remington

In this week’s FutureFocus, palliative care and hospice are in the spotlight. A bill called the Palliative Care & Hospice Education Training Act passed the House at the end of July. It establishes greater palliative care workforce training programs for doctors, nurses and other health professionals. In another story, the OIG is taking a closer look at hospice and finding vulnerabilities. We provide the report that has some eye-opening findings. 

Lisa Remington, President, Remington Health Strategy Group

In a new hospice portfolio released by the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (OIG), the agency found that hospices do not always provide needed services to patients and sometimes provide poor quality care.

Hospice use has grown steadily over recent years, with Medicare paying $16.7 billion for 1.4 million beneficiaries in hospice care in 2016. A decade before, in 2006, those numbers were $9.2 billion for fewer than 1 million beneficiaries. Terminally ill patients who choose hospice expect to receive support and services that make end of life as comfortable as possible. However, some of these individuals are faced with improper care and fraudulent billing.

OIG found that patients and their families and caregivers do not receive crucial information to make informed decisions about their care. And taxpayers are bankrolling much of this poor care and fraud through the Medicare hospice benefit.

Nancy Harrison, Deputy Regional Inspector General overseeing the portfolio, explains problems in the hospice industry and what can be done to improve the hospice program.

SOUNDBITE #1: No one wants their loved ones to suffer needlessly in their final days. We need to improve hospice care for our mothers, our fathers, our friends, ourselves. Our agency’s common-sense recommendations would improve hospice care for all of us. (:18)

SOUNDBITE #2: It is so important to have reliable information and good resources when you’re facing a terminal illness and considering hospice care. As it stands now, you have the least information when you are thinking about end of life care. Our recommendations would improve the resources available to help patients and their families make the best decisions possible. (:24)

To Read The Hospice Portfolio, visit oig.hhs.gov.