Hospices Serve A Critical Need

J. Donald Schumacher

First posted 7/5/11 on Kaiser Health News

The author is responding to a recent Kaiser Health News story:  Concerns About Costs Rise With Hospices’ Use (Rau, 6/27).

As Congress works to come to terms with the economic challenges facing our nation, it’s inevitable that discussions focus on health care. With an estimated one third of Medicare spending going towards care of beneficiaries in the last year of life, attention has understandably turned to the rising costs of hospice care. Hospice is the leading provider of palliative care services for those facing serious and life-limiting illness.

Admittedly, there has been much growth over the past decade, from 700,000 patients receiving care in 2000, to more than 1.5 million people now. Current Medicare spending on hospice has increased to nearly $12 billion. Utilization of hospice and the costs of care have increased due to a variety of factors affecting the field.

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