There is strength in numbers. I think that saying certainly can apply to Thursday’s joint statement by four associations serving hospice providers to Congress and regulators about the alarming expansion of hospices in certain states.
Their message? It’s time to crack down on the mushrooming of unscrupulous hospice providers, and here’s how. With a detailed list of 34 recommendations, the groups — National Association for Home Care & Hospice, LeadingAge, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation — prescribe exactly what needs to be done to curb the proliferation of bad actors.
Among their recommendations:
- Implement targeted moratorium on new hospices, especially those in high-growth regions
- Revoke Medicare enrollment for non-operational hospices
- Develop list of hospice “red flag” criteria
- Put certain new hospices into a “high-risk” survey category
- Prohibit individuals with convictions for certain crimes from serving as hospice administrators or owners (e.g., financial crimes)
- Require ownership disclosure
- Mandate that new hospices undergo more frequent surveys
- Include several additions to the Care Compare website, such as regular updates to date of hospice certification and/or change of ownership
- Identify the role of the hospice Special Focus Program in upcoming rulemaking
Well done, associations. But we shouldn’t necessarily be surprised by their action. These hospice providers hinted at it back in November when they singled out three states that were experiencing unusual growth in hospices.
It’s certainly not easy to take a discerning look at one’s own industry, but it’s pretty clear that many of the new hospice providers cropping up in states like Arizona and Texas have no resemblance to the associations’ members. Some of these new hospice providers appear to have other motivations — such as making a fast buck. And given the microscope now firmly placed on the industry, it sure seems like a good idea to be proactive.
The organizations’ unified front sends a clear signal: We protect our own. We will not allow those wearing the cloak of hospice providers to tarnish our good name.
Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at [email protected].