Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

In the Hospice Trade, It's Taking Care of Business

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

In the Hospice Trade, It's Taking Care of Business

Article excerpt

In the fast-growing for-profit hospice business, few have grown with the speed of Edmond-based Community Medical Inc., the operator of 17 Community Hospice outlets in four states.

With 250 employees, 300 patients and plans to open at least two more offices in the coming months, Community Hospice owner Jim Anthis has clearly mastered growth.

Now about that profit thing.

"My answer to for-profit is I wish we were," says Anthis, who launched the firm a short four years ago. "When you grow that much, there is no profit."

The hospice business, for-profit or not, centers on making terminally ill patients comfortable, usually in their own homes. Pain management is a big part of hospice service, which makes no attempt to cure or prolong the patient's life through such treatments as chemotherapy.

Patients typically have cancer, Parkinson's disease, chronic heart failure or AIDS and all have a prognosis of a few months. Medicare, for example, pays to care for persons with six or fewer months to live.

The concept started in England in the late 1950s and was imported to the United States less than 20 years ago as a volunteer effort organized by church groups.

As health care professionals and investors realized that 85 percent of Medicare was going to care for people with less than six months to live, however, for-profit hospices began cropping up.

Still, most hospices, an estimated 70 percent, remain in a nonprofit tax status. That compares to 94 percent three years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

But there is clearly money to be made. Hospices, for example, get roughly $95 a day for Medicare-eligible patients, who currently make up about 90 percent of Community Hospice's business.

So why Anthis' trouble with margins? A competitive Oklahoma market, for one, with an inordinate number of for-profit operations, many having followed the success of Anthis' Community Hospice system. …

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