Medicare Hospice Benefit (Part A)
Medicare beneficiaries who choose hospice care as a Medicare Benefit receive a full scope of non-curative medical and support services for terminal illness.
Medicare Covers the Following Hospice Services
- Physician services
- Nursing care
- Medical appliances and supplies
- Drugs for symptom management and pain relief
- Short-term inpatient and respite care
- Homemaker and home health aide services
- Physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech/language pathology services
- Social work service
- Spiritual care availability
- Volunteer participation
- Bereavement services
When a patient receives these services from a Medicare-certified hospice, almost the entire cost is covered by the benefit, and the only expense to the patient is limited cost sharing for outpatient drugs and inpatient respite care.
Care Requirements Under the Medicare Benefit
A Medicare beneficiary may elect to receive hospice care for two 90-day periods, followed by an unlimited number of 60-day periods, and when necessary, an extension period of indefinite duration. The benefit periods may be used consecutively or at intervals. Regardless of whether they are used one right after the other or at different times, the patient must be certified as terminally ill at the beginning of each period.
A patient has the right to cancel hospice care at any time and return to the standard Medicare coverage, then later re-elect the hospice benefit if another benefit period is available.
If a patient cancels during one of the first three benefit periods, any days left in that period are lost. The patient is, however, still eligible for the second 90-day period, the 30-day period, and the indefinite extension.
If cancellation occurs in the final period, the patient returns to standard Medicare coverage and cannot use the hospice benefit again.
Besides having the right to discontinue hospice care at any time, patients also may change hospice programs once during each benefit period.