Paying for Hospice Care

January 27, 2015

Who pays for hospice? That’s a question we hear frequently at Hospice of the Foothills.

The simple answer is that if your loved one is eligible for Medicare, non-curative interventions related to the terminal diagnosis are covered.  This would also include any medical equipment needed such as a hospital bed or oxygen.

What Does Medicare Cover? Medicare covers the following hospice services:

  • Hospice Medical Director services
  • Nursing services (nursing visits)
  • Durable Medical Equipment (such as wheelchairs)
  • Medical supplies (such as bandages for wound care)
  • Medications for symptom control or pain relief
  • Dietary counseling
  • Hospice aide and homemaker services
  • Physical and occupational therapy (on approval)
  • Social worker services
  • Spiritual care services
  • Grief counseling for the family
  • Short-term inpatient care (for pain and symptom management)
  • Short-term respite care

Although anyone with a life-limiting illness of six months or less can be referred or refer themselves to hospice for care, many people think that you only call in hospice during the last couple of weeks of someone’s life. As a result, patients sometimes suffer needlessly, and their families lack the support they could have had with a good hospice team at their side. Sometimes the delay in seeking hospice care is because of confusion about cost.

Your loved one must meet all of the following eligibility requirements for hospice services:

  • Eligible for Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance)
  • A doctor and the hospice medical director certify that your loved one is terminally ill and has 6 months or less to live
  • Your loved one (or his/her legal guardian) signs a statement choosing hospice care instead of other Medicare-covered benefits to treat the terminal illness
  • Care must be provided by a Medicare-approved hospice program (such as Hospice of the Foothills)

There are things that Medicare won’t cover such as treatment or drugs intended to cure the terminal illness.  Hospice does NOT pay for room and board in any setting, any medications or treatments not related to the terminal diagnosis, and nothing curative.

Respite Care (5 days) A terminally ill person can get inpatient respite care if the patient’s usual caregiver needs a rest. During this time, your loved one will be cared for in a Medicare-approved in-patient facility.

The bottom line is that hospice is affordable and available to anyone with a life limiting condition seeking to live life as fully and as comfortably as possible.  No-one needs to die in pain. Intake specialists are available to offer more detailed financial information.  So, don’t wait until someone has suffered months before calling in hospice.

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