Government Spending More Than $12 Billion on Hospice Care

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Hospice Still a Cost-Saver

But Schumacher says there's no proof of such patient selectiveness.

"There's no documented evidence of 'cherry picking' that I've seen," he said. "Some programs have a targeted marketing strategy, but there's nothing wrong with that under federal guidelines as long as they are taking care of any terminally ill patients requesting services."

Medpac, the government's Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, made a couple of recommendations to Congress in March on ways to cut costs and reduce fraud.

Medicare should increase payments for services at the beginning and the end of care to discourage stays beyond the time needed. Medpac also recommended investigating whether relationships exist between hospices and long-term care facilities and taking a closer look at enrollment processes at hospices with patterns of long periods of service and marketing practices.

But experts warn that cost-controlling measures shouldn't be excessive, since hospice still saves the government money.

"For every patient admitted to hospice, it saves approximately $2,250 compared to patients with similar illnesses not admitted to hospice care," said Schumacher.

"The fact that the government is spending more on hospice care might be a good thing," said Field. "That could be money we're not spending on long-term care or hospital care."

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