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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Washington Post Reports on How Greedy Geezers Are Stealing from the Young

Washington Post Reports on How Greedy Geezers Are Stealing from the Young

Friday, 27 December 2013 05:51

The Washington Post had a good investigative piece on how for profit hospice-care providers are increasing their profits by admitting people for hospice care who are not actually dying. These people are far more profitable for the companies since they are likely to be receiving hospice care for a longer period of time and require less care than someone who is actually dying. Medicare and Medicaid pick up most of the cost of this care.

In the accounts of spending on the elderly that the Washington Post and others routinely cite to make arguments about generational inequity, the money ripped-off from the government by these hospice providers count as payments to the elderly. 

Comments (9)Add Comment
privatw enterprise does it again
written by djb, December 27, 2013 6:21

Another stunning success for prrivate enterprise..... paid for 90% by the government
I am morally disturbed
written by Shawn Wilkinson, December 27, 2013 7:02
The phrase "for-profit hospice" has me so morally outraged I can't even articulate it. I honestly can't see how any sane person with a conscience can say "Oh, you are dying? I will ease your pain and suffering for a 50%+ margin."

I think I just lost all hope for humanity.
Health Care Profits Most When You are Sick ... Even Beyond an Extended Death
written by Last Mover, December 27, 2013 7:27

The reason this article makes it into WaPo is the explicit portrayal of government failure of Medicare and Medicaid, compared to under-reported stand-alone private market failure of health care which can be even worse.

True, the firms ripping off the government are private in straightforward rent-seeking fashion, but note the context. It's about a taboo subject (until recently) - dying and the personal control over the process, clashing up against a medical industrial complex that's ready to monetize the precious metals out of the mouth of an unclaimed corpse should the opportunity present itself.

The moral outcry from the political right will be the same. The government caused such disgusting abusive treatment of the dying to exploit the situation, due to unavoidable perverse incentives within government itself.

It is shameful and disgusting, but what would an unregulated private health care system offer as the alternative? At least at the same or higher price as the abuse reported here, private hospices could easily provide a civilized, respectable place to die. And some do for those who can afford it.

In either case - public or private health care sector or somewhere in between, the notion of determining that one is dying within 6 months is obviously a critical diagnosis typically lying within the domain of medical experts, well beyond the reach of any private market or goverment entity, and usually beyond the patient and related persons involved.

In pure economic terms, who can be trusted with such a diagnosis in the current environment where everything associated with health care beyond simple OTC aspirin has become suspect?

The ones who get paid more or less depending on the diagnosis? The ones whose pay doesn't change regardless of the diagnosis? The ones held up by reputation or second and third opinions?

This is the essence of market failure, posed in this case as the face of government failure. But the private market on its own can be much worse. Beware of the Paul Ryan solution that will charge you even more to die a peaceful death, when simple, tough regulations pre-empted by the Paul Ryan crowd could have easily prevented the disgusting abuse reported in this article.

Only in America. It's not even possible to die in peace anymore.
Why Doesn't It Count As Payments To Hospice?
written by Robert Salzberg, December 27, 2013 7:52
Fraud helps the fraudulent more than the elderly. Hospice workers and executives reap most of the benefits, not the elderly.

When someone really, really needs hospice and can't afford private duty help, hospice generally substitutes for a son or daughter leaving one or two of their jobs to care for their parent.

So hospice helps many people besides their patients and it is not so clear that it should be completely counted as a payment to the elderly.

Viewer II
written by viewer, December 27, 2013 12:52
OK - nothing wrong with private hospice care - as long as they don't cheat. Private insurance companies would most likely not allow this fraud. Believe me, corps find it easier to steal from the government than other private firms, at least for the most part. Moral of the story - we need single payer, and we need to really clean up the fraud.
Morally Disturbed
written by Bart, December 27, 2013 2:35

Shawn mentions the disturbing phrase "for-profit hospice". To that I would add "pre-existing conditions" to the appropriate hall of shame.
The big redistribution is from poorer men to richer women
written by Because everyone in the U.S. has unaffordable health insurance. They did before, and they still will., December 29, 2013 1:00
While there is an element of intergenerational transfer in taxation and welfare, it has run often the other way around: older people have subsidized the expenses of raising and educating children. That children, not just pensioners, are "dependents" is often forgotten: while the number of pensioners per worker has risen, the number of children per worker has gone down, so that the overall dependency ratio has not changed a lot.

But even this is dwarfed by the far bigger redistribution from men to women: depending on estimates men pay 60-80% of taxes, and women receive around 60-80% of welfare and healthcare benefits.

This is also in significant part a massive redistribution of income from poorer men on lower incomes to richer women with higher incomes.

Modern USA (and other first-world country) politics has become a machine to buy the votes of women, who votes more and swing their vote more, by redistributing to them a large chunk of men's earnings, as the latter vote less and tend to vote for the same party for a long period.
written by arthur davis, December 30, 2013 11:15
Washington post reports to the Accounts, The Washington Post had a good investigative piece on how for profit infirmary providers are increasing their profits by admitting people for infirmary care who are not actually dying. They investigate their accounts for the profit by confessing people. There is no wrong with the people for infirmary care as long as they do not betray.http://awolfbookkeeping.com/services/

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.