Hospice costs Medicare less, study says

Share this content:

"Significant" savings in the Medicare program can be achieved by greater use of hospice services, according to Duke University researchers. Avoiding typically "expensive hospitalizations near death" cut per person Medicare spending by an average of more than $2,300 per patient.

The study examined a nationally representative sample of age-eligible Medicare beneficiaries from the National Long Term Care Survey screening sample who died between 1993 and 2003. Patients using hospice for nearly the last two months of life "maximize cost savings to the [Medicare] program," said Don Taylor, primary study author and an assistant professor of public policy at Duke's Sanford Institute of Public Policy.

Longer hospice use would have reduced costs for 70% of hospice users, his team found. Medicare spending on for hospice care was $6.7 billion in 2004, researchers said.

Their study, "What Length of Hospice Use Maximizes Reduction in Medical Expenditures Near Death in the U.S. Medicare Program," was published in the October issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine.