90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Big Business And Hospice Care

How dying became a multibillion-dollar industry.  We dig into the booming business in hospice care and big charges of fraud

Joe Takach, talks to his friend Lillian Landry, as she spends her last days in the hospice wing of an Oakland Park, Fla. hospital. (AP File)

Joe Takach, talks to his friend Lillian Landry, as she spends her last days in the hospice wing of an Oakland Park, Fla. hospital. (AP File)

When the end comes – and it comes for us all – we want it to be peaceful.  Dignified.  We want to be in calm and knowing hands.  Increasingly for Americans, that means turning, when death is near, to hospice care.  A generation ago, hospice was almost unknown.  A few non-profits here and there.  Today, hospice care has exploded into a huge, multi-billion dollar business.  With lots of distinctly, aggressively for-profit players.  Drawing billions from Medicare.  And charges of fraud and mistreatment.  This hour On Point:  what’s happened with American hospice care.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Ben Hallman, senior financial reporter and investigative reporter for the Huffington Post. His investigative piece is called “How Dying Became a Multibillion-dollar Industry.” (@ben_hallman)

J. Donald Schumacher, President and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. NHPCO represents both non-profit and for-profit hospices, including Vitas, one of the main national chains that reporter Ben Hellman highlighted in his report.

Dr. Diane Meier, Professor of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and Director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care. She is Principal Investigator of a National Cancer Institute-funded study on palliative care services for cancer patients and on the Board of Directors of non-profit Visiting Nurse Service of New York. She received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2008. She is the author of: Palliative Care: Transforming the Care of Serious Illness.

From Tom’s Reading List

Huffington Post: How Dying Became A Multibillion-Dollar Industry – Mounting evidence indicates that many providers are imperiling the health of patients in a drive to boost revenues and enroll more people, an investigation by The Huffington Post found.

New York Times: Differences in Care at For-Profit Hospices – For the terminally ill and their families, the disenrollment issue seems troubling. Some hospices now discharge 30 percent or more of their patients, withdrawing the services they’ve come to rely on.

The Washington Post: Terminal neglect? How some hospices treat dying patients – For more than a million patients every year, the burgeoning U.S. hospice industry offers the possibility of a peaceful death, typically at home. But that promise depends upon patients getting the medical attention they need in a crisis, and hundreds of hospices provide very little care to such patients, a Washington Post investigation has found.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Mar 4, 2015
Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a keynote address at the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, in Santa Clara, Calif.  (AP)

Hillary Clinton’s week of bad headlines: about her emails and foreign money going to the Clinton Foundation. We’ll dig in.

Mar 4, 2015
This photo taken July 31, 2012 shows a "tiny" house April Anson built in Portland, Ore. For the past couple of months, 33-year-old Anson and her friends have been planning, measuring, sawing and hammering their way toward completion of what might look like a child’s playhouse. (AP)

Tiny houses, micro-apartments. They’re hot. Americans are downsizing.

RECENT
SHOWS
Mar 3, 2015
This July 21, 2014 photo shows strawberry banana chia breakfast smoothie in Concord, N.H. Breakfast habits in America are changing, leading to dramatic shifts in business strategy. (AP)

Food guidelines are changing. So is what we eat for breakfast. Cereal? Out of favor. Eggs? Maybe OK. And all kinds of new menus. We’ll look at Americans and breakfast.

 
Mar 3, 2015
A group of community activists in San Francisco, CA celebrate that city's February 2014 embrace of the Fair Chance Campaign's efforts to alter background checks on employment and housing for convicted criminals. (Courtesy All of Us Or None)

Is it time to stop asking job applicants if they’ve been convicted of a crime? We’ll look at employment and unemployment after prison.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Answers To Your Questions On Black Holes
Tuesday, Mar 3, 2015

Yale University’s Priyamvada Natarajan answers your black hole questions in full. (Well, most of them.)

More »
Comment
 
Want To Listen To Lead Belly? Here’s Where To Start
Monday, Mar 2, 2015

Loved our show on Lead Belly, but unsure on where you should start to listen? Jeff Place of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage offers his best picks for a beginning Lead Belly listener.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: February 27, 2015
Friday, Feb 27, 2015

We won’t lead you into a debate on the color of #TheDress (it’s blue and black, end of debate), but we do wonder about the blurring lines between so-called Internet culture and general popular culture. Also, it’s snowing in Boston. Still.

More »
Comment