While hospice use in the United States is growing, there are challenges for patients, families and hospice agencies when it comes to utilizing the Medicare hospice benefit. In an article titled “On the Way to Hospice, Surprising Hurdles” at NYTimes.com, Paula Span does a terrific job highlighting some of the barriers that exist – and I’d like to share a few additional thoughts.
While challenging, the earlier the hospice conversation takes place the better. Patients and families truly benefit from the hospice process and we need to make sure every patient and family gets the opportunity. I outlined some of the clear benefits of hospice care and some suggestions for having the conversation in my September blog post “The Hospice Conversation Can Be Difficult…But It’s Worth It.”
Patients, families and physicians should err on the side of getting hospice involved as early as they can. They should give hospice the opportunity to see if they can figure out the best way to provide care for the patient. While the regulations are clear and the reimbursement process is always challenging, hospices are devoted to providing excellent end-of-life care for patients and families. We’ll account for the financial challenge, and if we can find a way to make it work, we will.
Never lose sight of the fact that hospice is not only good for patients and families…it also saves a tremendous amount of money. With all of the pressure that healthcare costs put on our economy…hospice is a cost-effective way to keep patients out of the hospital and helps to avoid costly, unnecessary treatments.
A study conducted by researchers at Duke University found that hospice reduced Medicare costs by an average of $2,309 per hospice patient. Additionally, Medicare costs would be reduced for seven out of ten hospice recipients if hospice was used for a longer period.
There needs to be changes to the hospice benefit going forward so that it encourages patients and families to utilize it. Changing the eligibility to include palliative treatments and increasing reimbursement for hospice providers will undoubtedly increase the number of patients seeking hospice…and reduce the number of patients chasing curative treatments that are so costly.
Hospices really can handle hurdles…but, how much more effective would it be if the hurdles didn’t exist at all?
Halcyon Hospice offers physical, emotional and spiritual support, providing quality end-of-life care for you and your loved ones. For more information about our services, visit our website or call us at (855) 328-1700.