Medicare enrollees choose nursing homes over hospice for end-of-life care, research shows

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Palliative and hospice care should be included in Medicare's nursing home benefits, according to authors of a new study.

Nearly one-third of Medicare beneficiaries choose to stay in a nursing home for end-of-life care, because Medicare does not cover room and board in hospice, according to the study.

In analyzing data from 5,100 people between 1994 and 2007, investigators from the University of California at San Francisco found 31% had used the nursing home benefits in their last six months of life.

“Unfortunately, financial issues may contribute to why patients near the end of life are using the SNF benefit and not the hospice benefit,” the authors wrote.

“Perhaps having Medicare pay concurrently for post-acute SNF care and hospice services for the same condition could allow earlier incorporation of palliative care for these medically complex patients,” the study authors wrote.

The study was published Oct. 1 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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