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Medicare Patients Enrolled in Hospice Receive Better Care

THURSDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- Medicare patients who enroll in hospice care receive better care at a lower cost, with the greatest savings if they enroll 15 to 30 days before death, according to a study published in the March issue of Health Affairs.

Amy S. Kelley, M.D., M.S.H.S., from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, and colleagues analyzed data from 3,069 subjects who were part of the Health and Retirement Study (where 1,064 were enrolled in a hospice before death) and their Medicare claims. Savings were examined for four periods of hospice enrollment: 1 to 7, 8 to 14, 15 to 30, and 53 to 105 days before death.

The researchers found that Medicare saved $2,561 per patient enrolled in hospice care 53 to 105 days before death, in line with a previous report. However, the program saved $2,650 per patient enrolled 1 to 7 days before death, $5,040 per patient enrolled 8 to 14 days before death, and $6,430 per patient enrolled 15 to 30 days before death. Hospice patients also spent fewer days in the hospital and had fewer in-hospital deaths over all time periods.

"Instead of attempting to limit Medicare hospice participation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should focus on ensuring the timely enrollment of qualified patients who desire the benefit," the authors write.

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