Hospice providers nationally are under attack for allegedly using unscrupulous business methods. A New Jersey company pressured nursing home staff to refer ineligible patients to hospice care. They were told to exaggerate their conditions to defraud the government, a federal whistleblower lawsuit alleges.
Sherri McDermott was a nurse who worked for hospice company Life Source Services for several months in 2017. Management fired her after she pushed back against changing medical records needed to claim Medicare and Medicaid coverage. McDermott alleges Life Source’s clinical coordinator told her to describe alert patients as “lethargic” or “comatose.” Management changed her chart entries and deleted other records.
Life Source rewarded nursing homes for referrals with luaus and barbecues for staff, by providing extra equipment and allowing hospice staff to cover routine healthcare needs. Life Source and its affiliates provides hospice services in nursing homes and inpatient facilities and also provides at-home hospice care. For-profit firms now make up 70% of the hospice market.
Rob Hennig, an attorney representing the plaintiff, told NorthJersey.com that Life Source’s hospice referrals ensured patients received unnecessary services.
“They were using people’s family members as profit centers,” Hennig said. “That’s just simply unacceptable.”