Is Your Homecare Provider “Paying For Your Vote?”
By Michael Fife, A.C.T. Home Health, Denton LIVING WELL Magazine
Ethics is a hot topic today for many industries, and healthcare providers are under the microscope more than ever before. Because of the intensely competitive nature of our economy, many homecare providers are seeking new and innovative ways to gain market share. In their efforts to become more creative and market-savvy, some agencies may tread closely on the boundaries of ethical behaviors in order to secure captive markets especially regarding senior living communities. Because these communities have large concentrations of potential clients/patients, it is no mystery why agencies focus on these communities as referral sources. What is questionable is why agencies would do things that challenge the boundaries of ethics for the sake of profits.
Most of us are familiar with stories of lobbyists sent to Washington, D.C. to buy votes for big industry. Although the old ways of doing this have become unlawful, a lot of legal means are still used that are clearly considered unethical to most Americans. Even if we have accepted this from our politicians as “business as usual,” we should expect more from those in the healthcare industry. Medicare has set some very strict guidelines to preserve a competitive environment for their beneficiaries, yet some agencies use loop-holes to undermine those guidelines.
It has become common practice by some agencies, including private-pay agencies, to rent space in senior communities to have exclusive access to what is known as a “captive audience.” Let’s be clear that this is entirely legal under Medicare guidelines. However, it does create the appearance of an endorsement of the agency with little regard for an open and competitive choice for the residents. Because the agency pays thousands of dollars per month to maintain the space, there is an expectation to fund that with referrals. Therein lays the ethical problem. If the resident is unaware of the arrangement between the agency and the community, and also unaware of her right to choose another agency, her vote has been bought. Remember, the best referral you can get from anyone for anything is one that has not been bought.
Author Michael Fife is the director of marketing at A.C.T. Home Health. You can learn more about them at their website www.ActHomeHealth.com.