Hospice patients in selected facilities will be able to use both palliative care and medical treatments, rather than choosing one or the other, as they currently must.

Beginning in 2016, the program will be conducted over five years in 40 states, including Virginia. Medicare and the federal government hope to find a better way to provide care to those in hospice facilities, and to see if beneficiaries take advantage of having access to both options: hospice care and hospital care.

Currently, many people deny hospice treatment in favor of medical care that treats their illnesses and symptoms.

Hospice care is valued for it’s multifaceted approach to treating the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient and their family. A hospice team typically includes doctors and nurses, grief counselors, social workers and other aides and volunteers that include not only the patient, but the patient’s family, in the process.

The test program relates to a previous announcement by Medicare that they will reimburse doctors for end-of-life care, sometimes referred to as “death panels.” For more information, see our past newsletter on the subject, or visit our Email Archive.

What does Medicare hope to get out of the experiment?
Medicare wants to see if implementing this policy would increase their own costs. Since many beneficiaries already opt for medical care over hospice treatments, and the cost of hospice care is far less than medical care, some speculate that Medicare’s costs won’t go up. If more patients choose hospice care over medical care, then Medicare’s costs could decrease significantly.

Who will the patients be?
Hospice generally serves patients in the last six months of their lives. In addition to those patients, this new program will be open to Medicare beneficiaries with advanced-stage cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure or AIDS.

Instead of having to choose between medical treatment and hospice care, Medicare patients in the selected facilities will have access to both. It is a voluntary program.

What else will Medicare be looking at in the study?
In addition to paying attention to their costs with the new policy, Medicare will be evaluating if more patients are using hospice, the quality of care, and the satisfaction of patients and families.

What happens when the program ends after 5 years?
If if the program succeeds in providing patients with more flexibility and lowering Medicare’s costs, Medicaid will likely adopt a similar policy.There are three Virginia hospice facilities included in the program, each with multiple locations.

The full list of hospices can be found here.


Tom Says:
“I want to hear from you. What do you want to see in our newsletter? Are you interested in any Medicare or senior-related topics you want us to cover? Or, if you like our current newsletters, I want to know that too. Let us know by responding to this email, or emailing me at [email protected].

See the full list of the 141 hospices in the program here.

To read more about Medicare’s test program, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up for our newsletter!
The latest in Medicare news, weekly.
My Medicare Planner