Bamboozled September 8th, 2016: Legislators keep promise to hospice patient’s family

We New Jerseyans love to complain when politicians don’t keep their promises.

Today we share the story of a promise kept.

Last month, we told you about Margaret Shaw, a woman whose 95-year-old mother Ida Shaw needed hospice care.

She went to Center for Hope in Scotch Plains.

As part of the contract, Center for Hope required a seven-day upfront payment.The contract clearly stated there would be no refunds under any circumstances. Shaw said she didn’t like the provision, but felt she had no choice.

The hospital was rushing to get her mom discharged, she said.

She paid the $2,730, or $390 a day, upfront.

Her mother died at Center for Hope two-and-a-half days after she checked in.

Margaret Shaw said she was happy with the care her mother received, but she was bothered by the upfront payment with no refund.

She tried to contact her legislators, requesting they introduce a bill to ban the practice. She didn’t get responses, but when Bamboozled followed up with the legislators, that changed.

Assemblywoman Nancy Muñoz and Senator Tom Kean stepped up, and they offered to draft legislation.

Identical bills will be introduced Thursday in both houses, the legislators said.

“This would prevent a hospice from charging a patient or family member for time periods in which the hospice is not providing services and the hospice is free to place another patient in the bed,” the Assembly version said.

Muñoz said she wants this protection for consumers.

“Fees imposed by hospice care centers must be fairly applied and the experiences of my constituents are proof that guidelines are needed to ensure fairness in billing for services rendered,” she said.

Kean said he’s looking forward for the passage of the bill.

“This bill provides some appropriate safeguards on hospice billing practices,” Sen. Kean said.

The legislation is exactly what Shaw wanted.

“I’m totally amazed that it happened so quickly,” Shaw said. “It shows in my heart they believe in what I believe in and they know this is a change that needs to be made immediately.”

Maryjean Butler, who also supports the legislation, contacted Bamboozled after reading Shaw’s story.

She said she had a similar experience with Center for Hope.

Her father Kenneth Butler died in 2013 at the age of 87 after spending one night in the facility.

“I was told about the advanced one week payment and the no refund policy. I certainly did not agree with it but basically had no choice,” Butler said.

She said the advanced billing/no refund policy should be banned.

“It is a very emotional/stressful time and families do not need this additional pressure,” she said.

So legislators, here’s a chance to step up for your constituents.

This issue transcends party. No one knows when a family member may need end-of-life care, and we’re sure you don’t want families paying for care their loved ones don’t receive.

Offer to co-sponsor the bills. And when they come up for votes, please give your support.

And, readers, we’ll keep you posted on any progress.

Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.