The time has come. I’ve hesitated for quite some time to voice my opinion, but the rampant misinformation regarding for-profit hospice care must be addressed. I have seen no evidence that nonprofit hospice organizations provide better care to terminally ill patients, are more ethical, or are more compassionate than for-profit hospices.
What began as a volunteer-driven, grassroots movement, has evolved to become a vital component of the healthcare system. The hospice industry now includes a mix of nonprofit, for-profit and governmental entities similar to other health-care sectors in the U.S. According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s 2010 report, more than one million people in the United States received hospice care in 2009. It’s apparent that hospices meet a very important need in this country — and to infer that the primary motivation is financial does a disservice to the dedicated hospice staffs caring for their patients.
I’m not sure why having IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit status would equate to superior service for terminally ill patients. There is no correlation between the profit status of a hospice program and the quality of care provided. The target of inferior-care inquiries should not be for-profit hospices. Rather, we should expose ANY hospice that fails to provide patients with quality care, regardless of their tax status.
So what is similar between nonprofit and for-profit hospices? The regulations are identical. All licensed and certified hospices must comply with state law and the Code of Federal Regulations governing hospice care. In addition, Medicare’s reimbursement rate is fixed regardless of the care needs of individual patients, the services patients receive, or the tax status of the hospice providing the care.
I can hear your counterpoints already regarding how some nonprofit hospices go above and beyond the call of duty to provide more than what a typical hospice might offer. But providing Make-A-Wish dreams come true for patients can’t be achieved by nonprofits without raising some outside money. Many for-profit hospices have nonprofit foundations that also do those things. Solari Hospice Care could not provide its annual free, summer bereavement camps for children and their families without the Solari Hospice Foundation, which is designed to educate the community about end-of-life care, provide funding for supplemental services, as well as build a strong, philanthropic organization that enhances the hospice movement.
Furthermore, just because a company spends all its money each year to maintain their nonprofit status, doesn’t necessarily mean they spend it well or put the money back into the company. For those people who continue to pit nonprofit hospices against for-profit hospices, it’s my opinion that you are fighting the wrong battle. What we all should be advocating for is helping people to live with dignity and comfort by providing comprehensive and compassionate hospice care. Hospice practices, including quality of care, depend on an organization’s staff and leadership, not tax status. In any field of business, there are “good” companies and “bad” companies, and hospice is no different.
My focus has never been on what any company’s tax status is, ever. What I am focused on and passionate about is providing the highest quality of care to patients facing complex end-of-life issues. My education in health care administration and my experience in the health care field over the years have given me the opportunity to work with some of the most skilled doctors, nurses, specialists, counselors and caring staff members. And when I founded Solari Hospice Care in 2002, I knew that I wanted and expected the same level of passion and dedication from my staff in Las Vegas and Houston. Our patients deserve nothing less than excellent care specific to their unique needs. Ultimately, the most important measure of a hospice should be the quality of care provided to patients — not its tax status.