Odd billing persists in growing hospice care

The rising cost of hospice care in Florida and nationwide is being bolstered by reports of nurses being retained for crisis care patients when no such need exists, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

One such nurse, 74-year-old Elly Barton, quit after being retained for crisis care when the patient needed no more than someone to ensure she didn’t leave her bed and fall.

"I know what the criteria are for crisis care — and this woman didn't meet them," Barton told the Orlando Sentinel. "And she wasn't the only one. I was assigned to patients who were supposed to be bedridden and they'd be up cooking for themselves." Barton’s former employer, Hospice of the Comforter, is currently the target of a whistleblower suit.

That sort of nursing home care has been one of the leading drivers of increasing hospice costs. Expenditures for nursing home care connected to hospices jumped 70 percent between 2005 and 2009, to $4.3 billion a year. Overall spending for hospice care topped $12 billion in 2009--averaging an annual increase of $1 billion over the prior decade, notes Kaiser Health News. Auditors for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimate that excess charges in 2009 reached $1.8 billion.

For more information:
- read the Orlando Sentinel article
- read the Kaiser Health News article

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