Background: Heart failure is a common cause of death among Medicare beneficiaries, but little is known about health care resource use at the end of life.
Methods: In a retrospective cohort study of 229,543 Medicare beneficiaries with heart failure who died between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2007, we examined resource use in the last 180 days of life, including all-cause hospitalizations, intensive care unit days, skilled nursing facility stays, home health, hospice, durable medical equipment, outpatient physician visits, and cardiac procedures. We calculated overall costs to Medicare and predictors of costs.
Results: Approximately 80% of patients were hospitalized in the last 6 months of life; days in intensive care increased from 3.5 to 4.6 (P<.001). Use of hospice increased from 19% to nearly 40% of patients (P<.001). Unadjusted mean costs to Medicare per patient rose 26% from $28,766 to $36,216 (P<.001). After adjustment for age, sex, race, comorbid conditions, and geographic region, costs increased by 11% (cost ratio, 1.11; 95% confidence interval, 1.10-1.13). Increasing age was strongly and independently associated with lower costs. Renal disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and black race were independent predictors of higher costs.
Conclusions: Among Medicare beneficiaries with heart failure, health care resource use at the end of life increased over time with higher rates of intensive care and higher costs. However, the use of hospice services also increased markedly, representing a shift in patterns of care at the end of life.
©2011 American Medical Association. All rights reserved.