Group of seniors in nursing facility

Recently, the true cost of hospice care has been a point of debate. Not only is the cost of care a concern for individuals and their families, but it's also a concern for government officials who must regulate the money spent through Medicare and Medicaid and ensure it's being spent honestly and with a valuable return. A recent study looked into how hospice care for nursing home patients impacted their care costs. Here's an overview of the findings from the research team from Indiana University's Center for Aging Research and the Regenstrief Institute. 

The team began by examining 2,510 long stay nursing home residents, of which a third received hospice care. According to their research, age, race and gender had no bearing on the findings concerning care costs and hospice care. 

They concluded that, even in cases where hospice care is provided for a prolonged amount of time, hospice services don't increase care costs for nursing home residents over the last six months of life. 

The primary factor that appears to allow hospice services to be administered without significantly raising care costs is that hospice patients are typically able to avoid costly hospitilization and the post-acute care that follows it late in life. 

While many may believe that hospice is given to patients in their own homes, and that is often the case, hospice care also takes place in nursing homes with specially trained hospice nurses and other staff come to the facility the same way they'd come to a patient's home. There are some additional obstacles and concerns when administering hospice and palliative care in nursing facilities. Namely, that it can be difficult to determine when residents with some diagnoses enter into the last few months of their life. 

These obstacles may be why many have questioned whether Medicare's hospice benefit is being used appropriately specifically for nursing facilty residents. The research conducted by Indiana University, however, found no evidence of cost shifting or dishonest spending. 

In most cases, there was little to no difference found between those in nursing facilities that elected to begin hospice care, and those that decided to forego hospice care. Two exceptions, cancer patients and advanced dementia patients, were found to elect hospice care more often than average. These findings are consistent with hospice statistics for patients outside of nursing facilities, as well. 

It's also important to note that the individuals studies in this research were predominantly disproportionately poor, non-white, and had been characterized by high health care costs. These individuals are rarely included in healthcare utilization studies. 

If you have questions about whether or not hospice and palliative care is right for you or a loved one, please contact us at Cura-HPC in Tulsa, Oklahoma: 800-797-3839.