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San Diego Hospice May Have To Cut 200 Workers

— The largest hospice program in San Diego County may lay off hundreds of employees to cope with financial problems because it may have violated Medicare regulations.

Aired 11/13/12 on KPBS News.

The largest hospice program in San Diego County may lay off hundreds of employees to cope with financial problems because it may have violated Medicare regulations.

U-T San Diego says San Diego Hospice temporarily stopped accepting new patients over the weekend.

The hospice provides care for 4,000 patients a year but Chief Executive Kathleen Pacurar says it may have to return millions of dollars in Medicare funding because it hasn't been strict enough in making sure that it only accepts patients who are likely to die within six months.

Pacurar says it's not about patient care.

"It all has to do with regulatory issues," she pointed out. "Did we fill the forms out right? Did we certify when a patient was coming on, that they were eligible for the hospice benefit? Were they at the point in their terminal illness that we were the right service for them?"

Pacurar says the hospice, which had a federal audit, may have to eliminate 200 employees next year, although bedside workers won't be cut.

"I'm confident that we will be here to continue to serve the needs of the community. However, what it may look like is we may be a smaller organization with a more narrowed focus for a time period," she explained.

Hospice care nationwide is under scrutiny over its costs, which increased 56 percent from 2005 to 2009.

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