I was very disturbed by the implications of the article in the Deseret News on May 10, "Medicaid fraud, abuse infecting hospice system."
The article leads the public to believe that we, as hospice care providers, are misusing federal Medicare funds due to the case against Joseph Kirschenbaum. The unfortunate circumstances of one case should not reflect on the diligent service provided to patients and families at the end of life.All terminally ill patients have the right to a good death. This is the goal of all responsible hospice care providers. An NHO (National Hospice Organization) Gallup survey found 90 percent of Americans who are terminally ill would prefer to be cared for at home or in a homelike setting, such as a nursing home. If, indeed, the allegations against Mr. Kirschenbaum are true, he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. A report prepared by the OIG (Office of Inspector General) concludes, "Overall the Medicare hospice program seems to be working as intended." According to a statement issued by NHO president Karen A. Davie, "This report should reassure Americans and the medical community that the Medicare Hospice Benefit is largely working as it was designed and that hospice care is being provided by organizations committed to providing compassionate, quality care to terminally ill individuals, their care-givers and families."
Last month, an NHO task force completed guidelines to clarify the roles of nursing facilities and hospices who share the care of nursing home patients. Hospice care providers are actively engaged in working with the nursing home industry and the Health Care Financing Administration to implement these guidelines to assure the continuing availability of quality hospice care to all who make this end of life choice.
I hope as a hospice care provider that this will help put the public's fears to rest.
Anne Stromness, RN, CRNH
Hospice clinical director
Community Nursing Service
Salt Lake City