Hospice care reduces readmissions
In 2008, Medicare costs reached almost $600 billion. As the percentage of the US population over the age of 65 increases, these costs are only going to continue to rise. And because much of the cost in caring for a patient is spent in the last months of life, an approach to caring for patients with terminal illnesses that is rational (not to be confused with rationed) and focused on quality of care rather than quantity of care will ultimately reduce health care costs. Hospice care remains the gold standard for cost-effective, high quality care of patients with terminal illnesses.
The current health care reform plan is committed to reducing costs. In April 2009, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) recommended that payments to hospitals with high readmissions should be reduced. Accordingly, President Obama’s 2010 budget includes provisions that will not only consolidate payments for hospitalization and post-acute care into one payment, but will also pay less to hospitals that have high rates of patients readmitted within 30 days of discharge.1 For hospitals with high readmission rates, this could mean a significant loss of revenue.
Increased utilization of hospice services can help hospitals and physicians with the challenge of reducing readmissions. When physicians have those difficult conversations with a patient whose illness is no longer responding to aggressive, disease-specific treatment and a referral for hospice care is made, the patient is less likely to opt for expensive (and often traumatic) treatments and will make fewer costly trips to the emergency room. And what’s more, these patients will die with peace and dignity, most likely at home with family, rather than in an impersonal hospital room. While the focus of health care reform may be on cost-cutting alone, we believe that the potential secondary benefit of increased referral to (and awareness of) hospice care will benefit all Americans as well.
1 Jweinat, Jillian J. Hospital readmissions under the spotlight. Journal of Healthcare Management. 55 (July/August 2010): 252-264.Explore posts in the same categories: education, health care reform, hospice, Medicare, palliative