BY MIKE SMITH
ProPublica and The New Yorker recently published an article entitled “How Hospice Became a For-Profit Hustle,” outlining multiple instances of fraud and malfeasance targeting the Medicare hospice benefit. The article illustrates how patient care can suffer when lackluster providers are able to manipulate the original intent and purpose of the benefit. We at Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County, along with our colleagues at the National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation (NPHI), are saddened by these practices and welcome a much-needed conversation around the incentives driving bad actors into end-of-life care. However, the activity described in this piece does not reflect the care we provide or the mission that we’ve dedicated ourselves to advancing.
Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County is a community-based, independently owned, non-profit, end-of-life care provider. We have served this community for nearly 40 years and have always been guided by our mission to deliver high-quality care to anyone at any time, all to ensure patients and their families experience dignified and respectful care in their most challenging moments. Unfortunately, there is a growing problem of fraudulent and harmful practices by some providers. These practices must be identified and eliminated wherever possible. However, the practices outlined in the article are not indicative of Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County. Instead, we seek to deliver the full interdisciplinary hospice care model while striving to respect the choices, wishes, and desires of our patients and their families.
Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County provides the full hospice experience, including services above and beyond those required by the benefit. In 2021, we cared for over 1,663 beneficiaries and their families, provided $1.2 million uncompensated care and community programs, such as Rainbow Kidz, that are offered at no cost. In addition, our agency benefited from 11,369 volunteer hours — all to ensure each person in our community had access to the care they needed.
Recent survey research, commissioned by NPHI and conducted by SIR and Emergence Creative entitled, “Views and Experiences of Aging & End-of-Life Care in the US,” shows that only 31 percent of people trust the healthcare system. The research found, however, that hospice stands out as care that patients and their families still trust and value. We know that trust is fragile and earned over time.
Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County is committed to maintaining your trust through continued exemplary service to our community.
We look forward to continuing to work with our colleagues and partners at the local, state, and national levels to ensure that opportunities for fraud and abuse in hospice are eliminated. All the while, we intend to continue serving as an example for what hospice can and should be for those in need.
We thank you for your continued support and wish you all the best.
Mike Smith is the president and CEO of Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County.