Hospice Myths Debunked
There is a lot of misinformation and misconceptions about hospice, which leads to people underutilizing the support that is available to them. Below are some common myths about hospice.
Hospice is for when people are going to die really soon.
To qualify for hospice, a person must have a terminal illness diagnosis and a prognosis of 6 months or less to live. This determination is based on two physicians' prognostications.
Some people are on hospice for days, others can be on for much longer- years.
After six months, you are kicked off of hospice.
Hospice is covered 100% by Medicare/Medicaid and by most private insurance plans. After ninety days, a hospice patient has a face-to-face visit with a physician or nurse practitioner to determine if the person still qualifies for hospice. After another ninety days (six months total), they are evaluated again. From that point on, the person is evaluated every sixty days to determine eligibility.
MOST patients will continue to qualify until they die.
Sometimes, a person who has been on hospice for months to years stabilizes or consistently improves in their health. Most of the time, this happens with diseases that are harder to prognosticate, like heart disease and dementia. And, people can improve after getting good, consistent care.
If the physician and Interdisciplinary Team determine that a person no longer qualifies for hospice, they may discharge the patient. If available, the patient may be appropriate for Palliative Care services, which is typically the best outcome for maintaining extra support.
Hospice is a place that you go to.
Hospice is a type of medical care, not a place. People can receive hospice care wherever they reside; their home, an assisted living facility, a board and care, or a hospice facility.
Hospice is only for cancer patients.
Almost a quarter of Medicare Hospice patients (24%) have a diagnosis of cancer, which is the same percentage as those with a dementia type diagnosis. That leaves 52% for other diseases, including circulatory and respiratory diagnosis, heart failure, etc. (NHPCO Facts-Figures-2022)
This graph also highlights the average length of stay for hospice patients. As we can see cancer patients on average have a shorter length of stay than dementia patients.
Hospice is for the elderly:
While the largest age group to utilize hospice are the elderly, 25% of Hospice patients that receive Medicare are under 65 years old. These numbers don’t include the percentage of private insurance hospice patients who typically are under the age of Medicare. So, this percentage is higher when we include the private insurance rates of hospice care. (NHPCO Facts-Figures-2022)
Hospice and Palliative Care mean the same thing.
In the U.S. Palliative Care and Hospice are two separate services, though related.
It used to be that Palliative Care team referred to a group of professionals in the hospital setting who talk with patients and families about goals of care and discuss the topic of hospice.
Today, hospital based palliative care teams still exist, in addition, in many areas, ongoing Palliative care is being provided in clinics and in some areas in home.
You can learn more about hospice at National Hospice and Palliative Care Association.