According to The New York Times, long-term care hospitals continue to provide poor care to elderly Americans. Long-term care hospitals, also called long term acute care hospitals, provide care typically after a person is being discharged from intensive care and is too sick to return to their nursing home. Close to 400 long-term care hospitals exist in the United States, a number that has dipped in the last decade after skyrocketing in the 90s from just 38.
The proliferation of long-term care hospitals during the period is now largely regarded as unnecessary and many elder care advocates say they harmed individuals while enriching their owners. Because patients at these hospitals are so sick, the hospital receives hefty sums performing multiple procedures and diagnostics on their patients. In 2017 alone, Medicare – which pays for two-thirds of all long-term care stays – paid out an eye-wateringly high 4.5 billion to these several hundred hospitals.
Despite the massive influx of cash, the prognosis for these patients is typically very dire. A third of patients at a long-term care hospital will pass away at the facility itself. For patients over the age of 80, that number is 41 percent. Given the fact that the hospital only admits patients too sick for nursing homes, its expected that the mortality rate would be high. However, public health experts speaking with the New York Times question whether these patients should have been admitted to a hospital at all. Perhaps a hospice would be more appropriate for many of these patients, with little chance of survival and such a poor quality of life trying to make an impossible recovery from the maladies.
Patients who do leave a long-term care hospital do not fare much better. Almost half will not survive within a year, and only 20 percent ever return home again. Given the difficult and miserable experience described by patients at some of these hospitals, doctors admit to the NYT that some patients “may change directions and choose hospice care instead.” However, the doctor added that, “Most people don’t look at the percentages. They say ‘Maybe I’ll be one of the 20 percent’ who can leave and go home.’”