Rising hospice care concerns?Submitted: 02/19/2014
Story By Kalia Baker

WOODRUFF - By 2015, 3 out of 10 people in Wisconsin will be considered part of the aging population.

But the issue of whether or not hospice facilities are draining Medicare for a profit is a nationwide issue.

"When those articles came out, those national articles, we were upset and hurt," said Leslie Schmidt, admissions coordinator at Seasons of Life Hospice Care. Unfortunately, our agency gets lumped into and we are very proud of what we do here at Ministry [Health Care]."

Schmidt is talking about a recent Wsshington Post article that states, "the number of "hospice survivors" in the United States has risen dramatically, in part because hospice companies earn more by recruiting patients who aren't actually dying."

Schmidt believes that accusation spoils the benefit of hospice care.

"It creates an inherit distrust for the services that are provided, that are legitimate, caring services that are provided by people who do good work, said Schmidt."

Some hospice patients are sent home because their Medicare benefits are revoked.

"That's why Medicare has very clearly defined guidelines of what the last six months of someone's life looks like."

Schmidt doesn't deny that Medicare fraud in the hospice care industry exists, but she doesn't want that to take away from good work that hospice care providers do.

"[Those] kinds of stories in particular are stories of interest. In that story, the people and the agencies that do good work, which are following the rules of Medicare, and other insurance programs get lost."

It's possible that the meaning of hospice is changing. Fewer people are dying in hospice care, but more people are relying on it.

"The biggest misconception is that hospice is a place that people go to at the end of life," said Melissa Salaam, who is the patience care supervisor at Ministry. Really, what it is, is the hospice teams comes to them, wherever they call home."

For registered nurse Chris Reed-Roeser, being a hospice caregiver is a dignified job to have.

"There are two things that I feel are the best part of my job. One being; that I work with an awesome group of people. I work with people who feel the same passion about end of life care as I do," said Reed-Roeser. "Secondly, going home at night and just knowing that you made a difference."

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