Saturday, August 2, 2014

Recap of Hospice Lessons Learned…

As I have said, hospice is no longer a wonderful group of people supporting those that are dying and their loved ones.  Hospice is now big business and most are for profit, not non-profit.  The more money they bring in, the better.  The people working in them may have hearts of gold but they are driven by their corporations to bring in more clients and if it appears they might be needed then they are helping, right?  Important to remember when speaking to hospice representatives:  if they don’t fully understand their services, the charges for those services, and how they will be paid, how will you?
The one line that angers me more than any other when talking to a hospice representative now is, “Well, Medicare pays that amount per diem so that’s what we charge…”   It doesn’t seem to matter if the actual services provided warrant the per diem charges. 

Think about it – we hear so much about how long Medicare and Social Security will be able to support the population.  At the same time, corporations have learned to work the system and cause a constant drain on Medicare funds for unneeded services.

So, when considering hospice, first make sure you have answers to these questions…


Hospice is supposed to be called in when your loved one has only six months or less to live.  They are supposed to help you cope with the impending loss and help keep your loved one comfortable until the end of life.

Alzheimer’s and the other forms of dementia don’t run on timetables so how do you know?  Keep an open conversation with your loved one’s physician.  If they have been following your loved one for a long time, they should have an idea when the end game is coming or there is a lot of pain to be managed and hospice would be helpful.   

You don’t need hospice for routine care of your loved one if they are already living in a nursing home or assisted living facility and receive routine care from the staff. For example, Mom takes no meds and has no pain to be managed.  She is still somewhat ambulatory and all of her needs can, and are, provided by the staff of the assisted living facility. 

Hospice provides those services (showering/bathing, etc.) these days and if your loved one is at home, those services may be necessary and much appreciated. 


Hospice representatives assume if you are 65 or over that you have Medicare and hospice will be covered.  There are many who do not have the Medicare coverage needed to pay for hospice!  If your loved one has never paid into Social Security, nor had a spouse that paid in, your loved one may not be covered.

Daddy is a good example of that situation.  As a teacher, he was considered a state employee.  Neither Social Security nor Medicare deductions were taken from his paycheck.  Instead, he had a pension that would pay instead of Social Security and he had a health plan that would stay with him throughout his life.  Mom was a homemaker but as his spouse, she was the beneficiary of his pension and his health plan even after his death.

Even though I worked in a health insurance company for over 20 years, I didn’t know that Mom didn’t have full Medicare.  I knew she had the health plan, but she also has a Medicare card.  I now know there is a difference between her card and others.  Her card has an “M” at the end of her social security number and states Medical (Part B) Benefits Only.  Because she’s never been hospitalized, I didn’t realize that she only had physician coverage until the bills for hospice started coming in. 


When I signed the paperwork for hospice, the representative evidently was assuming Medicare would pay and I didn’t know better.  There was a page where she could list the insurance copays, deductibles and out of pocket maximums but she marked them with zeros.  The bottom of the page had a table of services at per diem, per hour or per visit fees but there were no fees listed and the section had a line through it.  Talk about misleading!!

Don’t let a hospice representative lead you by the nose as I did!  Make sure they fill in the actual fees that will be charged and what the out of pocket costs will be, if any.  Know what you are getting into before you sign.  I trusted them and was blindsided.

I don’t want to go without giving an update on Mom.  She’s doing well as always and takes care of her “baby” every day.  She doesn’t always know I belong to her but she’ll smile and loves hugs and kisses.  She’s still happy to see great grandchildren when they visit, too.  :)