Hospice saves Medicare dollars

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Increasing hospice enrollment would save the Medicare program millions of dollars annually, according to a new report.

Researchers at New York City's Mount Sinai Medical Center looked at 2002-2008 Medicare claims of 3,069 people, finding those who enrolled in hospice cost the Medicare program less than those who did not enroll.

The most savings occurred when patients entered hospice 15 to 30 days prior to death, according to the report. If 1,000 additional beneficiaries enrolled in hospice during this window of time, Medicare would save about $6.4 million annually.

Increased hospice care would also lower 30-day hospital readmissions rates, the researchers stated. A Medicare rule under examination prevents simultaneous reimbursement for hospice and skilled nursing care.