Medicare spending spikes due to lengthy hospice care: 5 things to know

Medicare hospice spending has climbed in recent years as a broader range of patients are receiving care, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

Here are five things to know about the issue.

1. An analysis by The Wall Street Journal of Medicare billing records found that between 2005 and 2013, about 107,000 patients were in hospice for an average of nearly 1,000 days spread out over four or more calendar years. The cost to Medicare for those patients, who represent just 1.3 percent of Medicare's hospice patients, amounted to 14 percent of its overall hospice spending.

2. Hospice workers and regulators say the longer periods of hospice care are partially attributable to hospice-care providers trying to persuade Medicare patients in nursing homes and other facilities to enroll in hospice programs.

2., Medicare hospice spending roughly doubled, to about $15 billion, between 2005 and 2013, The Wall Street Journal analysisfound.

3. Although Medicare's hospice program is intended for patients whose physicians have determined are likely to die within six months, Medicare hospitals is routinely being extended to those with a wide range of long-term ailments, including dementia.

5. In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, Medicare said it is "committed to appropriate hospice payments," and noted it recently changed how it pays for hospice care so payments with treatment received during various lengths of stays are better aligned.


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