Medicare demonstration project to cover hospice, curative care

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The Medicare program is gearing up to begin a 15-site demonstration project that will provide both hospice care and life-sustaining treatments to Medicare beneficiaries, according to recent reports.

Beginning in 2012, the government will roll out the program at 15 sites around the country. The healthcare reform law establishes a three-year-long demonstration program during which Medicare will experiment with concurrent coverage, according to Kaiser Health News. Medicare currently will cover the cost of hospice care only after a physician diagnoses a patient as having less than six months to live, and after the patient stops receiving any life-sustaining treatments.

Misperceptions about end-of-life care linger following last year's “government death panel” debate. Roughly 53% of seniors either believe healthcare reform establishes death panels, or don't know one way or the other, according to a recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.