Health Law Blog - Healthcare Legal Issues

Hospice and Home Health Areas of Review Risk

Home Health and Hospice Review Areas

home health hospice fraud reviewsThere are several areas applicable to home health and hospice that are susceptible to review.  Hospice reviews have tended to focus on whether patients actual meet criteria to be eligible to receive hospice benefits.  The focus on hospice arises, at least in part, due to the expansion of this segment of health care industry and the relatively rapid increase in spending for hospice care.  The government’s audit and enforcement trends indicate a deep suspicion that hospice are admitting patients who are not terminal or do not otherwise meet eligibility criteria.  The government points to the relatively large number of hospice patients who are discharged from hospice care alive.

In order to qualify for hospice benefits, a Medicare patient must have an illness that is terminal.  A physician must certify that the patient is terminal and is unlikely to live longer than six months if the illness runs its expected course.  The patient must also waive their right to receive curative treatment for the terminal condition in order to qualify for benefits.  Physician certification must be provided at two 90-day intervals following hospice admission.  After the first 180 days of hospice care, the patient must be seen “face-to-face” by a nurse practitioner who determines continued eligibility for coverage.  This process of certification and admission qualification creates several obvious pouts of risk for providers.  The government seems to be keying in on a few of these points of risk as evidenced by recent enforcement actions.

Payments to physicians for administrative duties should be carefully scrutinized to assure that the compensation arrangement does not create a referral inducement.  Medical director agreements must be analyzed under the Anti-Kickback Statute and applicable Stark Law exceptions.  Compensation should be at fair market value, cannot take into account he volume or value of referrals, and must meet other regulatory requirements.

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John H. Fisher

Health Care Counsel
Ruder Ware, L.L.S.C.
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