What Should I Know about the Medicare Hospice Benefit?

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July 24, 2023 •  The Estate & Elder Law Center of Southside Virginia, PLLC
The Medicare hospice benefit provides end-of-life care and support to millions of seriously ill Americans and their families every year.
Robert W. Haley, managing lawyer
Robert W. Haley
Certified Elder Law Attorney® Robert W. Haley brings over 27 years of legal expertise and knowledge to his firm, which concentrates solely on the areas of elder law, estate planning (Last Will & Testaments, Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Trusts, etc.,.) Asset Protection/Medicaid Planning and fiduciary services. For many years, Robert practiced in real estate law, and in general practice, but decided to narrow his focus to elder law and estate planning when he realized the tremendous need for proper planning to be filled in Southside Virginia.

Authorized in 1982, the Medicare hospice benefit is an example of a government program that works for everyone. It compassionately supports the patient receiving the care services and family members who often become their primary caregivers. Hospice improves the healthcare system by supporting care transitions through reducing ambulance (EMS) trips, emergency room visits, and hospital readmissions, as well as unwanted, costly treatments that no longer align with a patient's goals of care, says MedPage Today’s  recent article entitled, “Dying With Dignity: A Look at the Advantages of the Medicare Hospice Benefit.”

For more than 40 years, hospice providers have helped ensure patients receive quality end-of-life care by their wishes, often including staying in their homes surrounded by loved ones. It covers a range of services, including pain and symptom management, medical equipment and supplies, counseling, and respite care for family caregivers.

Many families of hospice patients say, "We only wish we had chosen hospice earlier." It's a common misconception that hospice care is only available to patients in their final days. Former President Jimmy Carter is a good example of a person who sought out hospice care earlier in his advanced disease state to spend his remaining time in comfort and surrounded by family. Many people are surprised that he has spent nearly three months in hospice care.

Seniors who have Medicare Part A, which covers in-hospital care; whose doctor has determined that their illness is terminal; are receiving palliative care; and sign a statement confirming that they wish to receive hospice care qualify for the Medicare hospice services benefit.

Hospice care saves money by providing the right level of care at the right time. This frequently means limiting the number of stressful and costly hospital visits to manage symptoms and complications when a patient is terminal.

Hospice care serves as a great benefit to patients, families, and caregivers by:

  • Delivering increased satisfaction and quality of life;
  • Improved pain control;
  • Reduced physical and emotional distress; and
  • Reduced prolonged grief.

It's unfortunate that 50% of hospice patients receive just 18 days or less of hospice care when they become hospice-eligible—that’s when a physician determines their life expectancy is six months or less.

Do you have a loved one who has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness and is considering hospice care? It's essential to check now to see if your loved one has documented their wishes in an estate plan and ensure that the plan is current. Our article, What Needs to Be Reviewed in an Estate Plan?, will help you start this process. Plus, our elder law team at The Estate & Elder Law Center of Southside Virginia will help answer any questions you may have about benefits for your aging loved one or how to protect them. Schedule a free call with our team to get started.

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