KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Philadelphia Area Increases Inpatient Hospice Care

A new market emerges for special end-of-life care that is inpatient and offers quiet rooms, home-like settings and high-tech alternatives. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: "For most people, hospice is a collection of services -- and an attitude -- that helps the terminally ill die comfortably at home. But as the number of patients entering hospice grows and as the drugs and technology used to ease pain become more sophisticated, some hospice providers say they're seeing more patients who need more care than their families can provide at home. That need, combined with the availability of some empty hospital buildings, has led to the creation, since November, of three new inpatient hospice units in this area."

The paper reports: "Most hospice patients still die at home, but the percentage who die in an inpatient hospice unit grew from 14 in 2003 to 19.2 in 2007, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO). The symptom-management units are meant for short stays, and not all patients who go there die there. Medicare began covering hospice services in 1982, with the idea that hospice was both a better and cheaper way to die than the all-out medical assault many encounter in hospitals. That year, only 25,000 people received hospice services, NHPCO says. In 2007, 1.4 million people were in hospice. ... Hospice experts think health reform may lead to even faster growth as the nation turns to palliative care as a way to rein in the cost of end-of-life treatment" (Burling, 7/12).

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