Hospice care is focused on helping a patient stay comfortable during his or her final days, according to eldercare.gov. It’s for terminally ill patients, but also helps comfort the patient’s family. Hospice care aims to treat the symptoms, but not the illness itself.

Medicare Part A typically covers hospice care, which you generally receive at home.

Are there ever problems with hospice care?

While hospice care can be a comfort and relief to many, some people encounter problems. Kaiser Health News (not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente) reported on hospice complaints in 2017.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) examined some 20,000 Medicare inspection records of hospice facilities and found:

  • Roughly 3,200 complaints about hospice care
  • About 700 confirmed hospice care issues out of those 3,200

Most complaints involved hospice care workers not showing up when scheduled, or failing to deliver other promised services. An example cited in the KHN report was a woman in Alaska whose father was under hospice care. He needed pain medication, which the hospice agency didn’t deliver as promised. When the daughter called, the hospice agency said it couldn’t get the medication because the prescribing doctor was unreachable — he worked nights and was asleep during the day. The problem continued for days. In this case, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services investigated and confirmed that the complaint was true.

The KHN investigation found that hospices rarely faced penalties for violations.

Does Medicare oversee hospice care providers?

Medicare determines payment rates and collects data about Medicare-approved hospice agencies. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), reports that new quality measures and data collection about hospice care are being developed.

PBS NewsHour reported that Medicare started inspecting hospice agencies every three years in 2018.

Based on hospice quality data, Medicare offers a way to compare hospice care facilities on its website.

How can I file a complaint about hospice care?

Medicare suggests the following ways to file a complaint about hospice care:

  • Contact the patient advocate of the hospice agency.
  • File a complaint at Medicare.gov.
  • Tell a Medicare beneficiary ombudsman that you’d like to file a complaint, and he or she can help you.