Study: Hospice patients cost Medicare less, often live longer

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Patients enrolled in hospice care cost Medicare less, according to the study "Medicare Cost in Matched Hospice and Non-Hospice Cohorts" published in the September 2004 issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

Medicare savings ranged from $1,115 for patients diagnosed with rectal cancer to $8,879 for patients with congestive heart failure.
The study also revealed that the hospice patients on average live longer than similar patients who are not under hospice care. The prolonged life spans ranged from 20 days for those patients with a diagnosis of gallbladder cancer to 69 days for those with breast cancer.

Conducted to identify cost differences between patients who do and do not receive Medicare-paid hospice care, the study examined patients with 16 of the most common terminal diagnoses. The report is significant because hospice care analysis has been debated since the Medicare Hospice Benefit was introduced in 1982, according to PR Newswire.

Almost 30 percent of Medicare payments go to patients at the end of their lives, said J. Donald Schumacher, president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the organization that commissioned the study.