Hospice use and end-of-life care costs rise

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted March 14, 2011

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Advocates of greater use of hospice care for patients with terminal illnesses have argued that it would improve end-of-life care and avoid the high cost of hospitalization. Although use of hospice care doubled from 2000 to 2007 among Medicare patients with heart failure, the average cost of caring for them during the last six months of their lives rose 26% during that period, according to a study of nearly 230,000 patients published in the Feb. 14 Archives of Internal Medicine (link).

Nearly 20% of patients with heart failure used hospice in 2000, with the figure rising to 40% by 2007. However, 80% of these patients still were hospitalized in the last six months of their lives, and the number of days in intensive care units rose. Home health costs also increased. The average per-patient total cost to Medicare went from $28,766 in 2000 to $36,216 in 2007.

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