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So, why wouldn't we expand hospice?

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I've been meaning all week to get back to my blog, and this morning, this story came across my inbox that prompted me to finally write again.

It's a story through the Kaiser Family Foundation, which regularly sends me news. After having my first personal experience with Hospice when my mother died in March, this article was an eye-opener for me.

I guess what I didn't realize about hospice is that the patient has to forgo what they call "curative" treatments, such as chemotherapy. I didn't know that. I thought to qualify, a patient had to be basically diagnosed with less than six months to live, but I didn't realize it only comes into play once a patient opts to reject certain treatments.

This article says that even though it was required under the new Affordable Care Act, Medicare hasn't started experimenting with an expansion of hospice services to patients who don't reject those treatments. The idea is, even if they continue to try chemotherapy or other measures, hospice can still be a cheaper and better quality option for some.

As the article points out, "It's not clear whether allowing Medicare recipients to receive curative and palliative treatments at the same time would save money."

Apparently insurance companies think it would — some are offering to pay any extra costs for their elderly enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans.

I certainly hope the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services gets rolling on this trial soon. According to their own statement, "This demonstration would allow beneficiaries to receive both palliative and curative care at the same time, which could provide better overall care to the patient."

In short, it means that more people would be able to get care at home at the end of their life, whether or not the reject certain treatments. To me, it's simply the humane thing to do.

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