A hospice company is one that provides care for sick or terminally ill individuals. Every individual has the option of choosing a for-profit or non-profit hospice company to look after his or her needs throughout the last stages of life.

The Medicare Hospice Benefit was established in 1983 to provide all Medicare beneficiaries with access to top quality, end-of-life care services.  Almost 90% of all hospice patients are also Medicare beneficiaries.

Medicare pays all hospices a set per-day rate, which covers all facets of the patient’s care. The per-day rate varies across different counties and states.  However, the per-day rate is the same whether the company providing the service is for profit or a non-profit.  All hospice providers are required to follow the same federal and state legislation pertaining to the quality of care patients must receive.

However, a disturbing trend has been documented in recent years as a result of the set per-day rate.  It’s been alleged that some hospice providers accept patients who have lower needs for their care for longer periods of time.  This allows companies to maximize their profit potential.  A National Home and Hospice Care Survey conducted across the United States in 2007 indicated that non-profit hospice companies provided care for a larger proportion of cancer patients and a lower proportion of patients suffering with dementia than for-profit hospices.  Some view this as an indication that for-profits are more likely to accept patients suffering from dementia as they have lower daily care needs and tend to live longer than patients suffering with cancer.

How are For-Profit Hospice Companies and Non-Profit Hospice Companies Different

There is one primary difference between hospices that run on a for-profit basis versus those that run on a non-profit basis.  The difference is that non-profit hospices do not have to pay state or federal taxes on any money they receive from Medicare.  In other words, non-profit hospices enjoy the same tax-exempt status as other non-profit organizations.

Another difference is the manner in which the two different types of hospices can raise money for direct patient care.  Non-profit hospices can solicit charitable donations from the community. Many non-profits hold fundraisers or solicit community donations in other ways for a variety of reasons, including to to raise funds to help provide the best possible patient care. For-profit hospices are not given the same opportunities.  In response, many for-profit hospices have created a separate non-profit foundation through which they can solicit donations.  Each foundation will have a specialized focus such as raising funds to help patients dealing with special needs.

What to Look For When Choosing a Hospice Facility

As all hospices are required to provide the same level of care and basic services, whether they are for-profit or non-profit, it is important to determine other criteria for choosing the hospice best suited to you or your loved one’s needs.

Many individuals look at the company’s history and reputation.  What a company has done in the past is a good indicator of what it will do in the future.  Talk with other patients or families who have experience with the hospice company.

While each hospice must provide the same basic level of care, many hospices offer different types of services as well.  You might want to look at any additional programs offered by the various companies, such as pet visits, massage therapy, or music therapy.  Does the company offer support for the family? What bereavement services are offered to the family and for what length of time?

If your loved one has needs of a more complex nature, you will want to confirm that the hospice is well equipped to handle those needs.  Is the staff trained to meet every need?  Is there specialized staff available to handle specialized needs such as for those with cardiac issues, or those dealing with dementia? Are they able to honor your loved one’s culture, traditions, or beliefs?

Talk to the hospice administration and the staff. Quite often, you will have an instinctive reaction that tells you that this particular hospice is a suitable or unsuitable choice for your loved one.