Duke University study finds Hospice care provides Medicare savings
Fort Worth billboard states important health care fact with major economic impact
Recently, Fort Worth-based hospice care provider Texas Hospice began a billboard campaign at Interstate 30 and Montgomery Street. While definitely not big news on that basis alone, the message itself may be surprising to many who see it. The board headline reads, “Hospice Saves Medicare $2,000 Per Patient.”
This simple line is contrary to a belief that some hold of hospice being an expensive health care service. Texas Hospice founder Dr. Brian Byrd believed that it was important enough for the public to know the truth about hospice’s value and the savings the care provides, that he invested in the billboard to help clarify the misunderstanding about hospice costs.
“In an election year where health care reform and government spending are central topics, I felt this message was important,” said Dr. Bryd. “We know hospice helps people live with dignity, comfort, and compassion and brings needed support to family caregivers – to know definitively that it provides a cost savings to Medicare is an additional benefit.”
The Medicare savings headline is based on a study from Duke University that appears in the October 2007 issue of the professional journal Social Science and Medicine. The study reinforces what hospice professionals have long known; hospice services save money for Medicare and bring quality care to patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families.
Key highlights from the study include:
- Hospice reduces Medicare costs by an average of $2,309 per hospice patient.
- Use of hospice decreased Medicare expenditures for cancer patients until the 233rd day of care (more than 7 months) and until the 153rd day of care for non-cancer patients (more than 5 months).
- Increasing length of hospice use by just three days would increase savings due to hospice by nearly 10%, from around $2,300 to $2,500 per hospice user.
- Medicare costs would have been reduced for 7 out of 10 hospice recipients if hospice had been used for a longer period of time.
“Given that hospice has been widely demonstrated to improve quality of life of patients and families, the Medicare program appears to be a rare situation in which something that improves quality of life also appears to reduce costs,” wrote Don H. Taylor, Jr., lead author of the study and assistant professor of public policy at Duke’s Sanford Institute of Public Policy.
With millions of baby boomers currently entering the Medicare program, the cost savings will be even more significant as more boomers either utilize hospice care themselves or in caring for their parents.
Because of Dr. Byrd’s efforts, Fort Worth residents traveling down Interstate 30 will now know that hospice care makes a real difference in people’s lives and on our country’s national Medicare budget.