Improving access to hospice care: informing the debate

J Palliat Med. 2008 Apr;11(3):438-43. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2007.0152.


The most frequently cited policy solution for improving access to hospice care for patients and families is to expand hospice eligibility criteria under the Medicare Hospice Benefit. However, the substantial implications of such a policy change have not been fully articulated or evaluated. This paper seeks to identify and describe the implications of expanding Medicare Hospice Benefit eligibility on the nature of hospice care, the cost of hospice care to the Medicare program, and the very structure of hospice and palliative care delivery in the United States. The growth in hospice has been dramatic and the central issue facing policymakers and the hospice industry is defining the appropriate target population for hospice care. As policymakers and the hospice industry discuss the future of hospice and potential changes to the Medicare Hospice Benefit, it is critical to clearly delineate the options--and the implications and challenges of each option--for improving access to hospice care for patients and families.

MeSH terms

  • Eligibility Determination*
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Hospice Care*
  • Humans
  • Medicare
  • United States