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The New York Times yesterday ran an article about the lack of oversight at what are called long-term care hospitals, and another about Select Medical Corporation, which runs 89 of them. According to the Times, more than 400 of these hospitals “have opened nationally in the last 25 years. Few of them have doctors on staff, and most are owned by for-profit companies.” While they take patients of all ages who need “acute long-term care,” these facilities hold a lot of older people, and survive almost entirely by getting top-dollar from Medicare for providing questionable care.
Lawsuits, state inspection reports and statistics deep in federal reports paint a troubling picture of the care offered at some Select hospitals, and at long-term care hospitals in general.
In 2007 and 2008, Select’s hospitals were cited at a rate almost four times that of regular hospitals for serious violations of Medicare rules, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Other long-term care hospitals were cited at a rate about twice that of regular hospitals.
Long-term care hospitals also had a higher incidence of bedsores and infections than regular hospitals in 2006, the most recent year for which federal data is available.
Fewer than 10 hospitals dedicated to long-term care existed in the early 1980s, according to Medicare officials. But many such hospitals have sprouted since then, driven by Medicare rules that offer high payments for hospitals that treat patients for an average of 25 days or more. Long-term care hospitals now treat about 200,000 patients a year, including 130,000 Medicare patients — at a projected cost of $4.8 billion to the government this year, up from $400 million in 1993….
Despite the rapid expansion of long-term care hospitals and the serious illnesses they treat, Medicare has never closely examined their care. Unlike traditional hospitals, Medicare does not penalize them financially if they fail to submit quality data.