Hospice Savings

A new study in Health Affairs finds that hospice saves Medicare money and reduces hospital and ICU stays near the end of life. The researchers looked at several lengths of stay (days and weeks) as well as patients who stayed about two to three months (53 to 105 days.) It didn’t look at the very long stays that had been in the spotlight as potentially inappropriate, particularly in for-profit settings. But the authors note that efforts to curtail hospice spending and length of stay “may be misguided.” Instead of working to reduce Medicare hospice spending and creating a regulatory environment that discourages continued growth in hospice enrollment, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should focus on ensuring that patients’ preferences are elicited earlier in the course of their diseases and that those who want hospice care receive timely referral.