• Medical Author:
    Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH

    Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Who pays for hospice care?

Medicare recipients are entitled to receive Medicare hospice benefits under Medicare Part A. Most state Medicaid programs also cover these services. The majority of private insurance carriers have hospice benefits as well.

How can people find and choose hospice care?

There are numerous choices for hospice care in every state, county, and city. The list of hospice companies for patients to choose from varies based on the location.

Although hospices typically offer the same basic requirements and focus on the comfort and quality of life, there is also some degree of flexibility and variation among different hospice agencies.

Your physicians or local hospitals may recommend a hospice for you. Most physicians are familiar with local hospice organizations and can refer patients or provide a list of what is available.

The following lists some general resources for people who are interested in more information about hospice in their local areas:

  • Primary-care physician, specialists, or hospital doctor (hospitalist)
  • Local hospitals and urgent-care centers
  • Medical social workers
  • Nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities
  • State health department
  • Health insurance carrier
  • Local home health agencies
  • Phonebook
  • The Internet

What questions should people ask of hospice agencies?

Hospice frequently asked questions (FAQ)

1. Who pays for hospice?

Most people are concerned about the how the cost of hospice is covered. Medicare hospice benefit is a part of Medicare which would cover hospice care once a Medicare beneficiary is enrolled in hospice. Most other private insurance plans also carry their own hospice benefits.

2. Can I take my regular medications on hospice?

Many people want to know whether they should continue taking their regular medication while on hospice. This depends on the patient's goals, medical condition, prognosis, and the indication for these medications. In general, most medication can be continued as long as they do not interfere with patient's comfort and are not taken as a potential cure for the hospice qualifying condition. Most people prefer to take fewer pills. They can ask hospice which medications they can safely discontinue without an untoward reaction.

3. Can hospice help with my living situation?

Many people may have difficulty with having their loved ones die at home or simply are unable to provide the level of care that is needed. Hospice agencies often have relationships are local assisted-living facilities which can accommodate hospice patients, usually at an additional cost. Alternatively, sometimes Medicaid plans can cover some of the room and board cost at these rest homes.

4. Can hospice provide treatment for infections?

Many patients and families are concerned whether they can receive treatment for infections such as pneumonia or urine infection. Hospices are flexible in terms of their approach to treating reversible infections. Most, but not all, offer diagnostic tests and antibiotics. It is important to address these concerns during the initial hospice evaluation.

5. Is my own doctor allowed to see me on hospice?

Others want to know if they can still see their own regular physicians. As mentioned earlier, primary-care doctors can continue to follow their patients on hospice and even make home visits.

6. Is it possible to go the hospital if I am on hospice?

Hospitalizations are covered if someone's symptoms are out of control despite routine hospice care at home. Patients can also be hospitalized for conditions unrelated to the hospice diagnosis. For example, if a patient with cancer suffers a fall and has a hip fracture, hospitalization may be required to fix the fracture. In this scenario, the patient's insurance usually covers the hospitalization in addition to the hospice benefits.

7. Other than medication and equipments, what other services does hospice offer?

Ancillary services such as nutritionists, therapists, and home health aides provide valuable services for hospice patients. The degree to which every hospice utilizes these services varies widely. Sometimes these additional interventions are important to patients and their families. Thus, it is advisable to discuss the availability of these services with the hospice representatives.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/6/2015

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