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MO Hospice Services Fare Poorly in New Gov't. Watchdog Report

A new government report says more than 300 hospice centers in the United States have had at least one substantiated complaint of severe harm. (Matthias Zomer/StockSnap)
A new government report says more than 300 hospice centers in the United States have had at least one substantiated complaint of severe harm. (Matthias Zomer/StockSnap)
July 10, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - A new government watchdog report points to serious problems at many of the hospice centers in Missouri.

Analysts from the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found Missouri has the third-highest number of poorly performing hospice services in the country, behind two much larger states - California and Texas.

Nancy Harrison, a deputy regional inspector general who helped supervise the research, said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should post ratings and inspection reports on their website, Hospice Compare.

"We really think it's important for patients and their families to have this information so they can make meaningful comparisons; so they can see if hospices have deficiencies and complaints filed against them," she said. "You don't think about buying a car without doing your research, yet we can't do that with hospices."

The report looked at inspection data from 124 hospice centers in Missouri and found 89% had at least one documented deficiency. The Washington Post reported that one patient of a St. Louis hospice suffered a maggot infestation after staffers skipped some home visits. In a statement, a hospice-industry trade group said it supports increased inspections, and added that the companies mentioned in the report do not reflect the vast majority of hospice care.

The report also noted that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have very few tools to enforce the rules, short of revoking a hospice provider's ability to be reimbursed by the feds. So Harrison said she would like Congress to give the agency the same tools for hospice care that it uses to keep other types of health-care providers in line.

"You know, monetary penalties, directed plans of correction. Those kinds of things promote compliance," she said. "Right now, they don't have it - and yet, they have it for other providers."

Families can check out the complaint and inspection records of all long-term care facilities in the state in the searchable database on the Missouri Department of Social Services' website.

The report is online at oig.hhs.gov.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MO