"Used as pawns to increase a company's profits," is how Senate Finance Committee Chairman and Senator, Max Baucus, describes the elderly Medicare recipients exploited by health care companies seeking to turn larger profits.

Baucus and his fellow Finance Committee member, Senator Chuck Grassley, have just released a report chronicling their investigation into several home health companies accused of consciously manipulating patient care to milk extra dollars from Medicare, says a press release from the United States Senate Committee on Finance.

After examining internal documents and investigating the care practices of three home health care companies - Amedisys, Gentiva, and LHC Group -  the Senate Finance Committee came to the conclusion that maximizing Medicare payments was the driving force behind some of these companies' policies on patient care.

Specifically, the report indicates that the companies ranked therapists in a way that urged them to visit their patients in ways that would take full advantage of Medicare payouts. They also reportedly formed agencies that were told to formulate care plans aimed at making the most of Medicare treatment programs.

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But, is this practice really harmful to the patient? No one really knows.

In a response to the Senate committee's report, Amedisys expresses their disappointment at the findings. They cite their cooperation during the committee's investigation, and say that their mission has always been to "provide the highest quality care for our nation's chronically ill, elderly population, while managing a compliant, efficient and financially sound business."

The committee concluded their report with some suggestions for the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). They also encouraged CMS to continue looking in to the operations of companies offering post-acute health care services.