Hospice “Crisis” and Elder Care

A Booming Hospice Industry in America

Did you know that about half of all Medicare patients who die “will do so as a hospice patient”?  According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, just ten years ago only about 25 percent of all Medicare patients died in hospice care.  Now, in the mid-2010s, that number has doubled.  And it affects Medicare spending, too.  Indeed, in 2014, Medicare is likely to spend about $15 billion on hospice care alone, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.  That number has risen dramatically from the year 2000, when that cost was under $4 billion annually.

Yet, despite the fact that hospice care costs billions of dollars each year, the government doesn’t put an equivalent effort into hospice regulation, according to the article.  To be sure, a recent investigation discovered that “the average hospice hasn’t been certified—meaning fully inspected—in 3 ½ years.”  And some American hospice facilities, 759 to be exact, haven’t received certifications “in more than six years.”  Keep in mind that, under federal law, nursing homes must be inspected much more frequently—every 15 months—and incidents of nursing home abuse and neglect occur nonetheless.  What does this mean for the well-being of patients in hospices that haven’t been inspected recently?

In short, there are more than 400 hospices in the U.S. that have “have racked up 20 or more violations over the past decade,” and a number of those facilities are located in Southern California.

Violations at Southern California Hospice Facilities

When Huffington Post prepared its article on the hospice crisis in our country, it provided an interactive map of the 759 hospice facilities that have received 20 or more violations in the last ten years.  Of the more than 700 facilities shown, nearly 20 exist in Southern California alone.

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Click on the image to visit the interactive map.

What do these facilities have in common?  By and large, the hospices listed are for-profit facilities.  Indeed, nearly 85 percent of the Southern California hospices with 20 or more violations provide for-profit services.  The national average for hospice certification is 3.5 years, and it’s 2.3 years in California.

As we’ve learned recently, the for-profit hospice industry has produced startling statistics.  For example, over the last decade, the Washington Post argues that about 50 percent of hospice residents have been discharged—a figure that suggests for-profit hospice facilities aren’t always providing the end-of-life palliative care they’re supposed to be offering for America’s aging population.

Which hospices should we keep an eye on?  For example, Vitas Healthcare Corporation of California, a for-profit facility in San Diego, hasn’t been certified in 8 years.  It has received 33 violations—a staggering number compared to the state average of 6 violations.  In Poway, CA, Scripps Hospice, another for-profit facility, hasn’t been certified in 7.4 years and has been cited for 15 violations.  A little bit farther north, Tri-City Hospice in Vista, CA hasn’t been certified in almost 7 years and has 2 violations on record.

Hospice care is an important concern for those of us who have elderly loved ones who may require long-term treatment or palliative care.  If you are concerned that your parent has been the victim of elder abuse—whether at a nursing home, assisted-living facility, or a hospice facility—it’s important to discuss your case with an experienced San Diego elder abuse lawyer.  Contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about how we can help with your case.

See Related Blog Posts:

Overuse and Misuse of Hospice Care

Assisted Living Facilities Fail to Pay Fines