Hospice market opens up for bid in Tampa Bay area

Florida officials have decided to expand hospice services in the western portion of the state, prompting a stampede of potential bidders for the services, the Tampa Bay Times has reported.

Florida is one of the few states with certificate-of-need requirements for services beyond those provided on an inpatient basis.

Three hospital systems in the region have submitted letters of intent to bid on the hospice services, according to the Tampa Bay Times. BayCare Health System is among them, and Tampa General Hospital and Florida Hospital Tampa have proposed a joint bid. Several other hospice services that operate in Florida also made initial proposals for entering the two-county area that covers the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg region.

Hospice has become a popular service in recent years, with about one in four Medicare enrollees using such services. Billing for hospice more than quadrupled between 2000 and 2009, topping $12 billion a year.

State officials will select the winning bids, although losers can appeal, making the process more protracted.

The hospice sector, once riding high on the coattails of hospitals looking to reduce end-of-life care costs, has been hit hard in recent years by some tough reimbursement cuts from Medicare. That has prompted some hospice providers in the region to cut jobs or consolidate with other providers, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The rise in billing also led to a crackdown on potentially fraudulent practices. Alabama-based SouthernCare recently settled federal fraud allegations for $24.7 million. The owner of an Oklahoma-based hospice service was recently convicted of 39 separate counts of Medicare fraud.

Nevertheless, the use of hospice services is attractive to hospitals looking to avoid financial penalties from Medicare for patient readmissions, particularly in a state such as Florida that has a high population of Medicare enrollees, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

To learn more:
- read the Tampa Bay Times article