Tuesday, August 21, 2018
News Roundup

Report: Medicare often overbilled by hospices and pays twice for some drugs

WASHINGTON — Hospices often bill Medicare for a higher level of care than patients need, and Medicare often pays twice for the prescription drugs provided to people who are terminally ill, federal investigators say in a new report. The extra cost to Medicare was put at more than $260 million a year.

"Many hospices have been billing far more than they should have," said Nancy T. Harrison, a deputy regional inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services who led the investigation.

The investigators found that Medicare was paying hospices almost four times as much as it should have for some patients. The patients were receiving "inpatient care" when all they needed was less-expensive routine care in their homes, the report said.

Medicare now pays hospices an all-inclusive rate of $720 a day for inpatient care and no more than $187 a day for routine home care.

The department's inspector general, Daniel R. Levinson, found that hospices were billing Medicare for a higher, more expensive level of care than patients needed in about a third of such cases.

In response to the report, Andrew M. Slavitt, the top Medicare official, said he was stepping up supervision of hospices.

Medicare's hospice benefit covers a combination of medical, social and counseling services, as well as prescription drugs, for people with a life expectancy of six months or less. It emphasizes the alleviation of pain and suffering rather than the cure of illness. Hospice patients generally forgo Medicare coverage for curative treatment of the terminal illness and related conditions.

In about 20 percent of hospice claims for inpatient care, Levinson said, the Medicare beneficiary did not need such care at all. In another 10 percent, he said, the patient needed the higher level care for only part of the inpatient stay.

And "in 1 percent of stays," he said, "there was no evidence that the beneficiary elected hospice care or was even certified as having a terminal illness."

The standard daily rate, paid to hospices by Medicare, covers the cost of prescription drugs that are used primarily to relieve pain and manage symptoms related to a patient's terminal illness. But investigators found that some patients also had insurance coverage under Part D of Medicare that paid for the same drugs.

"Medicare is paying twice when Part D pays for drugs that are already covered" by the hospice benefit, the report said. In these cases, it said, beneficiaries may incur extra costs, in copayments under Part D of Medicare.

Comments
The Daystarter: Measles and parents who don’t vaccinate; immigration hardliner DeSantis’ great-great-grandmother nearly barred; preseason helps mend Bucs fans’ souls

The Daystarter: Measles and parents who don’t vaccinate; immigration hardliner DeSantis’ great-great-grandmother nearly barred; preseason helps mend Bucs fans’ souls

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Watch out for more thunderstorms in the evening hours, but it’ll dry up by sunset, according to the National Weather Service. Highs will be in the low 90s.• As you head out for your m...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Romano: Draining the swamp can be dangerous in Florida

Romano: Draining the swamp can be dangerous in Florida

Drain the swamp. That’s the rallying cry, right?More term limits, fewer career politicians. A ruling class of regular folks. There’s just one small problem. The average Floridian is more dangerous than whatever you’ll run into in a swamp. Other place...
Published: 08/21/18
Leader of group behind transportation petition drive had his signature thrown out

Leader of group behind transportation petition drive had his signature thrown out

TAMPA — Tyler Hudson has become the face of the citizens group behind the Hillsborough County sales tax transportation initiative.The Tampa Heights attorney took the lead at news conferences and delivered boxes of signatures for the group’s petition ...
Published: 08/21/18
Largo looks for ways to cut use of plastics, without a ban

Largo looks for ways to cut use of plastics, without a ban

LARGO — Commissioners made a pledge recently to transition city operations to 100 percent clean energy by 2035, but Jamie Robinson had something a little more immediate in mind.So, the commissioner asked his peers on the dais if they thought the time...
Published: 08/21/18

Tuesday’s letters: Sculpture will be safe for the birds

Sculpture raises bird safety fears | Aug. 14Sculpture will be safe for the birdsIt’s gratifying and exciting to be moving ahead with the design of an outdoor sculpture for the Pier District in St. Petersburg. I want to thank the City Council, cit...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays defeat Royals thanks to pitching and replay

Rays defeat Royals thanks to pitching and replay

ST. PETERSBURG — That the Rays defeated the Royals 1-0 on Monday night — Tampa Bay's major-league-leading 51st one-run game — is not surprising. What is a bit unusual is how they did it.With two outs and runners on first and third i...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rays journal: Seminole’s Brett Phillips returns home

Rays journal: Seminole’s Brett Phillips returns home

ST. PETERSBURG — Brett Phillips played at Tropicana Field in 2012 when he was a senior at Seminole High and a member of Team Pinellas in the annual Hillsborough vs. Pinellas All-Star Game. He was just weeks away from being picked in the sixth r...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Who says preseason doesn’t count for Bucs?

Who says preseason doesn’t count for Bucs?

TAMPA — Monday was a beautiful day out at One Buc Place.Sunny. Blue skies. Hot, but not a thousand degrees like it has been in recent weeks around here.The Bucs were finally back home after spending most of the past week in Nashville. And despi...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rodney Page’s takeaways from Monday’s Rays-Royals game

Rodney Page’s takeaways from Monday’s Rays-Royals game

Replay played a big role in the game. The Rays got their run in the second when an out call at first was overturned. Then in the fourth, Kevin Kiermaier was picked off second with no outs after a replay showed his hand came off the base.Ryan Yarbroug...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Head-on crash kills three, injures two children in Zephyrhills

Head-on crash kills three, injures two children in Zephyrhills

ZEPHYRHILLS — Three people were killed and two children were seriously injured in a head-on collision that took place Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place about 7 p.m. on County Road 54, west of Chantel Drive.Elv...
Updated: 10 hours ago