The largest hospice provider in California, San Diego Hospice, announced it will cease operations in the midst of a lengthy federal audit.
Related Story: Medicare Audit Forces San Diego Hospice To Close
CAVANAUGH: Our next big story of the day, it's a follow-up on the financial troubles of San Diego hospice. San Diego's oldest hospice service and the largest in the state had filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Wednesday we learned that San Diego hospice is actually closing its doors after more than 30 years in business. KPBS investigations producer Joanne CATE has been following that story. Hello, Joanne.
CATE: Hi, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Usually chapter 11 allows a business to reorganize and get their finances in order. Why did San Diego hospice choose to shut down?
CATE: A couple of reasons. It comes down to money and uncertainty. So this closure comes in the midst of a 2-year Medicare investigation. Medicare began auditing San Diego hospice in February, 2011, and they're looking into whether all of the patients they took on were actually eligible for care. Hospice is a type of home care that you get in the last six months of life. If you have a terminal illness, you are eligible. So Medicare is saying were all of these patients actually eligible? San Diego hospice by its own analysis estimates it could have pay back ten was millions of dollars back to Medicare. But the problem is, Medicare has not talked to San Diego hospice. It hasn't said this is how much you might have to pay. So the uncertainty has led San Diego to have to say we can't continue any further as an organization with this hanging over our heads.
CAVANAUGH: What happens to the patients?
CATE: There are 400 patients receiving care, and they have the option to transfer now to Scripps. The Scripps health up until last week did not have a hospice service. But they bought a small hospice. Now they have a license. And they are saying to the patients if you come over to us, we will also try to keep the same care providers that you have now. But those patients have the option to go anywhere, actually to, any hospice provider.
CAVANAUGH: And of the employees, some of them are going to transfer over to Scripps, right?
CATE: Some of them. Well, there are 500 employees. Scripps says we will try to hire some of them. I do want to play some tape for you. Chris van Gorder is head of Scripps health.
NEW SPEAKER: What we'll be doing over the next 30, 60, 90 days based upon what the Court allows us to do is seamlessly transfer the patients to our care unless they want to opt out. They have the option of going to any other hospice if that's what they'd like to do. But if they want continuity of care, it may be the same employee with a different badge taking care of the patient in their home.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Chris mentioned any other hospice. What other hospices are in service here in San Diego now?
CATE: We have about 20 of them. We have a number of them. Many of them nonprofit, some of them for-profit. There's a list on the California website.
CAVANAUGH: And you will continue to follow this story as part of your end of life series.
CATE: Absolutely. And people can go to KPBS.org/endoflife to see the reporting we've done so far.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you.
CATE: Thanks, Maureen.