Medicare Rates May Affect Hospice Stays

PROVIDENCE, R.I., July 13 (UPI) — The amount of time for an average Medicare-certified hospice stay in a nursing home has doubled in the last 10 years, U.S. researchers found.

Lead author Susan Miller of Brown University and colleagues evaluated hospice use in U.S. nursing homes from 1999 to 2006 and found the typical treatment time has increased from 46 days to 93 days.

The study, scheduled to be published in the August issue of The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, said a standard daily payment rate for most Medicare hospice enrollment days was an incentive for some of the longer stays.

One-third of Medicare beneficiaries who die in nursing homes access hospice services and the study raises the possibility that reimbursement policies may contribute to the volume of the very long stays.

“We undertook this study to inform efforts in Medicare hospice reform,” Miller says in a statement. “Although we found a direct link between increases in hospice enrollments and a rise in the number of providers, it is the increasingly long lengths of stay we believe that raise policy concerns. Still, we caution against making sweeping changes to the program, which could deny nursing home residents hospice care.”

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