Medicare Hospice Benefit
Hospice and other end of life issues are not things we often want to talk about. However, being prepared and knowing all your options is a good idea.
We should start by describing hospice. Hospice is a program of care and support for people who are terminally ill. The focus is usually on providing comfort instead of treatment. It is a choice a patient needs to make with their doctor and family. Hospice programs also offer assistance and services to family members during the process of caring for the patient.
If you have Medicare it will cover hospice services. The Medicare hospice benefit covers your care and you shouldn‚Äôt have to go outside of hospice to get care (except in very rare situations).
Once you choose hospice care, your hospice benefit should cover everything you need. All Medicare-covered services you get while in hospice care are covered under Original Medicare, even if you were previously in a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO) or other Medicare health plan.
Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) covers Hospice care if you meet these conditions:
Your hospice doctor and your regular doctor certify that you‚Äôre terminally ill (with a life expectancy of 6 months or less).
You accept palliative care (for comfort) instead of care to cure your illness.
You sign a statement choosing hospice care instead of other Medicare-covered treatments for your terminal illness and related conditions.
Palliative care means that the medical team will focus on relieving the patient‚Äôs pain and any other symptoms, including mental stress. Only your hospice doctor and your regular doctor can certify that you‚Äôre terminally ill and have 6 months or less to live.
To start the process you meet with your doctor to discuss all options. Medicare covers a one-time only hospice consultation with a hospice medical director or doctor to discuss your care options and management of your pain and symptoms. This one-time consultation is available to you, even if you decide not to get hospice care.
Medicare will cover the hospice care you get for your terminal illness and related conditions, but the care you get must be from a Medicare-approved hospice program.
Hospice care is can be given in your home. Although depending on your needs and wishes, there are also inpatient programs available. That is one of the things you will discuss with the hospice program (and your loved ones). Together you will create a plan of care that can include any or all of these services:
Medical equipment (like wheelchairs or walkers)
Medical supplies (like bandages and catheters)
Hospice aide and homemaker services
Physical and occupational therapy
Speech-language pathology services
Social worker services
Grief and loss counseling for you and your family
Short-term inpatient care (for pain and symptom management)
Short-term respite care
Any other Medicare-covered services needed to manage your terminal illness and related conditions, as recommended by your hospice team
You can find out more information at medicare.gov or by calling them at 1-800-Medicare. Hospice specific information and resources are available at https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/hospice-and-respite-care.html
You can also talk to your physician about your options and care available in your area.
This information is meant to inform you of coverage available to you should you need it. Don‚Äôt be afraid to talk openly with your family about end of life decisions.