New York Times Article Tackles Rising Hospice Costs

A recent article published by the New York Times (in collaboration with Kaiser Health News), “Concerns about Costs Rise with Hospices’ Use,” painted a troubling picture of hospice care in the United States. The article pointed to isolated instances of abusive practices by several for-profit hospices—presumably, for the financial benefit of the hospice over providing the best care to the patient.

Like the large majority of hospice providers, Hospice of the Red River Valley does not condone this sort of abusive practice—in fact, every person who values accessibility to high-quality end-of-life care should be outraged. However,  the mistreatment of Medicare and other payment sources by a few does not, and should not, be confused with the vast majority of hospice organizations.

As a response to the article, NPR’s health blog pointed out that the increase in costs isn’t only because more people are using hospice. It’s also because patients are staying in hospice longer before dying. And those long-stay patients are more likely to be cared for by for-profit companies than non-profits, studies show. (Hospice of the Red River Vally is a non-profit hospice organization.)

The cases pointed out in the article of patients staying on hospice “too long” are, in fact, the opposite of what is experienced by most hospice patients. More often, patients receive hospice care for less time than they are eligible. Nationwide, the median time spent in hospice care is just 17 days, while criteria for hospice care says patients in the last six months of life are eligible for care.

Pallimed does an excellent job on its blog of pointing out additional flaws and one-sided information presented in the article. In addition,  Donald Schumacher, president and CEO
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization wrote a thoughtful response to the article featured by Kaiser Health News.

While Medicare has increased spending for hospice care, it’s important to remember that these patients are simply utilizing one form of health care services over another (paying for hospice services, rather than paying for hospital stays, emergency room visits, etc.) The bottom line is that for organizations such as ours, providing hospice services is not about making money. Hospice is a philosophy of care, and the belief that every person deserves compassionate end-of-life care that fits his or her needs.

Contact us today for more information about hospice services.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving more than 30 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email or visit


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