As Kris Mamula’s recent article rightfully pointed out, hospice fraud does exist (“Hospice Fraud Becoming a Costly Problem for Medicare,” March 6). It is, however, a small fraction of the $65 billion in overall Medicare fraud. The continuing increase in hospice regulatory oversight will result in less fraud and improved quality of care for patients and their families.
Recent Medicare mandatory reporting shows that more than 85 percent of caregivers would recommend hospice services to others who are eligible at the end of life. Multiple studies have also shown cost savings to Medicare, as well as increased quality of life for cancer patients supported by hospice care during their final months.
In 2008, Medicare — the primary payer of hospice services — began requiring that all hospices have a quality assessment performance improvement program. Additionally, hospices must conduct a family evaluation of services. Beginning in 2017, these quality measures will be publicly reported, thus increasing consumers’ ability to assess quality before selecting a hospice provider for their loved one.
The number of hospice providers has swelled over the past decade and today includes dozens of hospices serving patients in Allegheny County. Founded in 1980 as a nonprofit organization by area hospitals and faith organizations, Family Hospice served more than 3,100 patients last year in Western Pennsylvania.
It is important for the public to know that fraudulent practices are not pervasive and that Medicare’s regulatory requirements will continue to improve hospice quality. Family Hospice looks forward to the public availability of quality measures and welcomes the additional scrutiny of the hospice field.
KEITH R. LAGNESE, M.D. Chief Medical Officer Family Hospice and Palliative Care Mt. Lebanon
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