40th Anniversary of Medicare Hospice Benefit

2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the Medicare Hospice benefit. Since nearly 40 years have passed since the inception of the benefit, some industry experts believe it may be time to re-examine aspects of the program in light of the ways patient characteristics and the larger health care system have since evolved. 

According to a recent article in Hospice News, “The hospice benefit was established as a demonstration project in 1970 and became a formal part of Medicare in 1983. At the time, nearly all of the patients who enrolled in hospice were suffering from cancer, and the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS) and its collaborators designed the program around the needs and illness trajectory of those patients."

2017 data highlighted by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization indicates the profile of the typical Medicare hospice patient has changed. Of the 1.49 million Medicare beneficiaries who enrolled in hospice during that year, cancer patients represented only 30%. Patients with cardiac conditions, such as congestive heart failure, accounted for nearly 18%.