Hospice is primarily a concept of care, not a specific place of care. Hospice offers a comprehensive program of care to patients dealing with a life threatening illness in the last months or days of their life. Hospice stresses palliative rather than curative treatment; quality rather than quantity of life. The patient and their family are both included in the treatment and care, and their spiritual, emotional and physical needs are met by staff trained especially for dealing with the issues faced by the dying and their loved ones.
Health Insurance and Hospice
By far, the largest majority of hospice patients are elderly, and eligible for Medicare. The second most treated group is cancer patients, who are often eligible for Medicaid. Both of these insurance plans cover hospice care and most private insurance companies recognize the advantages of offering hospice treatment and will fully cover the expense.
Hospice patients are cared for by a team of trained professionals including physicians, nurses, social workers, counselors, clergy, home health workers, and volunteers to assist the family. Each one offers their own expertise in care. Hospice programs also provide medications, particularly pain management aides, equipment, and other services related to treating the terminal illness and patient. All of these services would be covered by health insurance.
Difficulties with Health Insurance
In the rare case of a patient not having health insurance, hospice programs offer assistance in finding insurance programs that the patient may not be aware of, that will cover the care. Failing this, most hospices will provide care and assistance to any patient facing end of life who cannot pay, using money raised from memorial foundations, grants, gifts and community sources.