Hospice enrollment saves money for Medicare and improves care quality across a number of different lengths-of-stay

Health Aff (Millwood). 2013 Mar;32(3):552-61. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2012.0851.


Despite its demonstrated potential to both improve quality of care and lower costs, the Medicare hospice benefit has been seen as producing savings only for patients enrolled 53-105 days before death. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, 2002-08, and individual Medicare claims, and overcoming limitations of previous work, we found $2,561 in savings to Medicare for each patient enrolled in hospice 53-105 days before death, compared to a matched, nonhospice control. Even higher savings were seen, however, with more common, shorter enrollment periods: $2,650, $5,040, and $6,430 per patient enrolled 1-7, 8-14, and 15-30 days prior to death, respectively. Within all periods examined, hospice patients also had significantly lower rates of hospital service use and in-hospital death than matched controls. Instead of attempting to limit Medicare hospice participation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should focus on ensuring the timely enrollment of qualified patients who desire the benefit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cost Savings / economics*
  • Female
  • Health Services Misuse / economics
  • Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing / economics*
  • Hospitalization / economics
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / economics
  • Male
  • Medicare / economics*
  • Quality Improvement / economics*
  • Quality of Health Care / economics*
  • United States