End-of-life hospice and palliative care will continue to experience demand as long as Americans age and die every year. That is just a fact of life New York Times mentions in an article, spotlighting that changes to hospice services should rely on enhancing the quality of care provided rather than the costs of services provided.
Citing that although roughly 6% of Medicare patients who die each year account for 27%-30% of health care costs, NY Times notes that this figure has not changed in decades. The total number of Americans that die every year, not just limited to the elderly, represent less than 1% of the population and account for 10%-12% of total health care spending.
Given these numbers, the article urges that no one knows why hospice care does not save more in costs than it currently does. So costs aside, the NY Times writer on health policy Ezekiel J. Emanuel offers up some solutions to enhance the quality of care for hospice services “even if we can never save a dime.”
First, all doctors and nurses should be trained in how to talk to patients and families about end-of-life care.
A related intervention—an idea that never actually was in the Affordable Care Act but inspired the death panel accusation—is that physicians should be paid a one-time fee to talk with patients about their preferences for end-of-life care.
Third, every hospital should be requires to have palliative care services available both in the hospital and at the homes of dying patients who are discharged.
Finally, we need to revise eligibility for hospice care. Right now, doctors must certify that patients have six months or less to live and patients must agree to forgo life-sustaining treatments.
Written by Jason Oliva