Palliative Care Still Not Covered, Despite Successes

Despite studies showing the cost-effectiveness of palliative care, insurers typically don’t reimburse hospitals for it, except for doctor visits and care related to hospice, according to a report by the Washington Post.

Planners of accountable care organizations, however, are intrigued by the promise of palliative care to reduce costs and improve patient satisfaction and quality of life.    

Palliative care teams, typically made up of a doctor, nurse, social worker and spiritual counselor, focus on relieving pain and managing symptoms for patients with serious medical problems. The teams also coordinate care among different providers and advise patients and families on healthcare goals and treatment decisions.

A 2010 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that lung cancer patients who received palliative care had better quality of life, were less depressed and lived longer than similar patients without it. Another March 2011 study in Health Affairs found that Medicaid patients receiving palliative care incurred $6,900 less in hospital costs than those who didn’t get it.

Lack of traditional insurance funding, however, is slowing implementation. "Unless you have a health-care system or a large hospital funding the rest of the team, you really can't provide [palliative] care," said Michael Nisco, medical director of hospice and palliative care services at Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno, Calif.

Read the Washington Post report on palliative care.

Read more coverage of palliative care:

- Palliative Care Cut Costs $6,900 Per Patient, Study Finds

- 5 Opportunities for Physicians and Hospitals to Realign in Preparation for ACOs

- 5 Errors That Can Cripple an ACO

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