USA Today, August 8, 2011
Medicare costs for hospice care have increased more than in any other healthcare sector as for-profit companies continue to gain a larger share of the end-of-life medical market, government records show. From 2005 through 2009, Medicare spending on hospice care rose 70% to $4.31 billion, according to Medicare records. A recent report by the inspector general for Health and Human Services, which oversees Medicare, found for-profit hospices were paid 29% more per beneficiary than non-profit hospices. Medicare pays for 84% of all hospice patients. At the same time, some of the nation's largest for-profit hospice companies are paying multimillion-dollar settlements for fraud claims and facing multiple investigations from state and federal law enforcement agencies. Critics say costs have also increased because for-profit organizations have cherry-picked patients who live the longest and require the least amount of care—such as those with dementia or Alzheimer's, rather than those with cancer.