What is Hospice?

Hospice is a philosophy of caring for those living with a life-threatening illness.

The hospice philosophy holds that end-of-life care should emphasize quality of life. The object is to treat the whole person, and not just the disease. The hospice philosophy focuses on patient/family-centered care that addresses the physical, spiritual, emotional, and practical needs of the patient.

An interdisciplinary team of health care professionals works with the patient and family to design and implement a plan of care unique to the patient’s diagnosis. In addition, hospice provides all medications, services, and equipment related to the terminal illness. Hospice care does not end with the patient’s death; it continues with up to 13 months of bereavement counseling for the family and loved ones.

A new infographic from NHPCO and HAN explains the hospice journey. Follow Anna and her family from prognosis, election of hospice care, and through bereavement. This tool combines illustrations with data points to tell one family’s story of their experience with Medicare Hospice Benefit. Click the image below to view the full-size infographic. 



Hospice cares for people where they live.
Although some hospice care is provided in hospitals, in-patient hospice facilities or nursing homes, the vast majority of patients are cared for in the place they consider home.

Hospice care is not limited to cancer patients.
Hospices now care for over half of all Americans who die from cancer and a growing number of patients with other chronic, life-threatening illnesses, such as end-stage heart or lung disease. America’s hospices are leaders in caring for patients with HIV/AIDS and are seeing a growing number of patients in the final stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In 2013, an estimated 1.5-1.6 million patients received services from hospice.

Hospice is mostly received through the Medicare benefit.
The Medicare Hospice Benefit was established by Congress in 1982, and in regulation in 1983, to ensure that all Medicare beneficiaries could access high-quality end-of-life care. Hospice became an optional Medicaid benefit as a part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA ’85). Americans are now promised the opportunity to live the end of their lives free of pain and with emotional and spiritual support. More than 80% of hospice patients are Medicare beneficiaries.

Hospice care is reimbursed on a per diem basis.
The Medicare reimbursement for hospice care is a set rate per day. There are four hospice rates each linked to one of the four levels of hospice care: routine home care, general inpatient care, respite care, and continuous care. The routine home care rate, at which more than 96 percent of all Medicare hospice patients are billed, is paid at two separate rates. For days 1-60 of routine home care, hospices receive $186.84 per day, and  $146.83 for days 61+ for fiscal year 2017. Note: These are the national benchmark rates that are geographically adjusted.

Click here to view the Hospice Action Network’s overview of the Medicare Hospice Benefit (June 2017) (.pdf).

Click here to download “Hospice Facts and Figures,” produced by NHPCO (October 2015) (.pdf).

Hospice Frequently Asked Questions

Hospice: A Historical Perspective