Association of Hospice Payer With Concurrent Receipt of Hospice and Dialysis Among US Veterans With End-stage Kidney Disease: A Retrospective Analysis of a National Cohort

JAMA Health Forum. 2022 Oct 7;3(10):e223708. doi: 10.1001/jamahealthforum.2022.3708.


Importance: For many patients with end-stage kidney disease (ESKD), the Medicare Hospice Benefit precludes concurrent receipt of hospice and dialysis services, forcing patients to choose between continuing dialysis or enrolling in hospice. Whether the more liberal hospice eligibility criteria of the Veterans Health Administration's (VA) are associated with improved access to concurrent dialysis and hospice care for patients with ESKD is not known.

Objective: To examine the frequency of concurrent hospice and dialysis care among US veterans by hospice payer and examine the payer for concurrent dialysis.

Design, setting, and participants: This was a retrospective cross-sectional study of all 70 577 VA enrollees in the US Renal Data System registry who initiated maintenance dialysis and died in 2007 to 2016. Data were analyzed from April 2021 to August 2022.

Exposures: Hospice payer, either Medicare, VA inpatient hospice, or VA-financed community-based hospice ("VA community care"). Primary hospice diagnosis-ESKD vs non-ESKD.

Main outcomes and measures: Concurrent receipt of hospice and dialysis services ("concurrent care").

Results: There were 18 420 (26%) eligible veterans with ESKD who received hospice services (mean [SD] age, 75.4 [10.0] years; 17 457 [94.8%] men; 2997 [16.3%] Black, 15 162 [82.3%] White, and 261 (1.4%) individuals of other races). Most of the sample (n = 16 465; 89%) received hospice services under Medicare and 5231 (28%) continued to receive dialysis after hospice initiation. The adjusted proportion of veterans receiving concurrent care was higher for those enrolled in VA inpatient hospice or VA community care hospice than it was for those enrolled in Medicare hospice (57% and 41% vs 24%, respectively; both P < .001). Regardless of hospice payer, the majority (87%) of the dialysis treatments after hospice initiation were financed by the VA, including for Medicare beneficiaries who had a hospice diagnosis other than ESKD. Median hospice length of stay was 43 days for veterans who received concurrent dialysis vs 4 days for those who did not.

Conclusions and relevance: In this retrospective cross-sectional study of US veterans with ESKD, a substantially higher proportion of veterans in VA-financed hospice received 1 or more dialysis treatments after hospice initiation than those enrolled in Medicare-financed hospice. Regardless of hospice payer, the VA financed most concurrent dialysis treatments. Hospice users who received concurrent dialysis care had substantially longer hospice lengths of stay than those who did not. These findings suggest that Medicare hospice policy may substantially restrict access to concurrent hospice and dialysis care among veterans with ESKD.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hospice Care*
  • Hospices*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic* / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Medicare
  • Renal Dialysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Veterans*