MedCity Influencers, Consumer / Employer

Opinion: New Study Reaffirms Value of Hospice – Policymakers Must Act To Expand and Protect This Type of Care

A new report by NORC at the University of Chicago reveals earlier enrollment in hospice and longer lengths of stay increase patient and family satisfaction while lowering total costs of care – reaffirming what hospice providers have known for years.

President Jimmy Carter’s decision to opt for hospice care has highlighted the importance of hospice care. His choice will hopefully help Americans better understand the benefits of hospice and lead to discussions with providers and loved ones about desired goals of care when approaching the end of life. But while hospice may be a newer topic of discussion for some, those of us who work to provide this type of health care have long understood the positive impact it has on patients, families and the health care system.

A new report by NORC at the University of Chicago reveals earlier enrollment in hospice and longer lengths of stay increase patient and family satisfaction while lowering total costs of care – reaffirming what hospice providers have known for years. It remains important for policymakers to take steps to protect and expand access to this specialized care.

Medicare is funded by taxpayers and provides healthcare to an estimated 60 million people – more than 18% of the U.S. population. Hospice is one of the earliest examples of a benefit designed to provide comprehensive team-based care focused on patient and family well-being while also reducing total Medicare spending. NORC’s report shows Medicare beneficiaries who enroll in hospice within the last year of life have reduced overall healthcare spending by more than $3.5 billion compared to those who don’t elect this care. With Medicare spending projected to increase dramatically in coming years due to our rapidly aging population, the potential savings realized from greater hospice utilization is significant and should be prioritized as we assess ways to improve breadth and capacity of our health care system.

Only about half of Medicare beneficiaries utilize hospice within the last year of life, and half of those who enroll receive less than 18 days of care. These shorter hospice experiences limit the ability of patients and their families to reap the full benefits of care, including emotional support, spiritual care and other unique services aimed at improving quality of life. New findings reveal policies to support eligible patients’ earlier enrollment in hospice and those that encourage increased hospice lengths of stay could also reduce Medicare spending even more. Unfortunately, calls to reduce hospice payment rates would have the opposite effect by putting strain on care teams and reducing access to care.

The NORC study reaffirms the value of hospice care in patient and family satisfaction at the end of life. At a time when our population is aging and health expenditures are increasing, it is critical that our lawmakers protect and expand care that improves quality of life and results in billions of dollars in health savings. Home-based care providers stand ready to partner with policymakers to protect hospice and expand access to this type of care for more people who could benefit from it.

Photo: LPETTET, Getty Images

David Grams is CEO of Compassus, a leading national provider of integrated home-based care services including home health, infusion therapy, palliative and hospice care.

This post appears through the MedCity Influencers program. Anyone can publish their perspective on business and innovation in healthcare on MedCity News through MedCity Influencers. Click here to find out how.

Topics