Medicare Advantage

Medicare Hospice Compare Helps When You Need It

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How do you know which type of hospice care is the best for yourself or a loved one? The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has created a website to help you get some answers. Hospice Compare provides objective measures of each hospice agency’s services to assist with this important decision. Once you or your family member have decided to use the services of a hospice provider, this site will help you narrow down the choices.

What is Hospice Care?

Hospice care is there to help people who have had a terminal diagnosis. Hospice professionals visit patients and offer specialized care geared to their needs. The goals of home hospice services are to make patients as comfortable as possible and to manage any pain they experience. Hospice care is also designed for family members of terminally ill patients, providing assistance with the patient’s care plan and offering support for the family’s grief over losing a loved one.

Who Provides Hospice Care?

Many agencies provide hospice care under Medicare guidelines. They can put the family of the terminally ill person in touch with grief counseling resources and direct them to any social services that are needed. At an inpatient hospice care center, family members will have easy access for visiting the patient, and most facilities offer a separate space for family members to gather.

How Can You Choose the Right Hospice?

Hospices report to CMS on a number of criteria, which have been gathered and compared for your use on the Hospice Compare website. Currently, nearly 3,900 hospice centers report to CMS on topics such as pain management and thoroughness of patient screening. This new site will be a tool to help promote the best patient care and encourage respect for the preferences of hospice patients.

How Does the Hospice Care Website Work?

The main screen at the CMS’s Hospice Compare site allows you to look for hospice care in your area. You can also search for a specific facility if you have the name or a partial name. For example, a search for “Foothills” brings up a phone number and link for each of several local hospices that include this word.

Another way to search is to enter the zip code for your area. The zip code for Clemson, for instance, brings up 17 results throughout the state of South Carolina. You’ll be able to filter your search results according to whether the facilities are government-based, non-profit or for-profit. To compare them, click on the green “Add to Compare” button on the right side of each hospice link. You can choose up to three that interest you.

At the top of the screen, there will be another green button that says, “Compare Agencies.” Clicking it pulls up detailed information about the three hospices you have chosen. From here, you can see how these facilities or services compare to the national average and each other for managing pain, treating symptoms and accommodating patient preferences. You can print the information out and compare each hospice side-by-side.

Another valuable resource on the site is a printable questionnaire to use when interviewing hospices. It includes questions about what’s covered, how insurance is applied, nursing routines, pain management and more. The checklist also has questions about how the hospice communicates with a patient’s family.

What Hospice Care Does Medicare Cover?

Medicare-covered hospice care generally takes place at home except for occasional inpatient short-term care. A hospice team will determine whether a patient needs additional assistance like nursing care, medical equipment or social work services, among other benefits. The family may also be covered for grief counseling and respite care.

In-home Medicare hospice care doesn’t cost anything for the patient, but short-term inpatient respite care may have a 5 percent copayment. Prescriptions for treating symptoms and relieving pain may have up to a $5 copayment as well. These benefits are the same no matter which hospice you choose.

Once hospice care has begun, Medicare will no longer cover medical services related to curing the illness. Patients must receive all of their care from the chosen hospice provider. As a hospice patient, you can still see your regular doctor or nurse practitioner as long as you have chosen that person as the medical supervisor for your hospice care.

The Decision is in Your Hands

In a stressful situation, having access to information adds stability and gives reassurance that you’re making the right decision. How well an agency provides care makes a difference in how you or a loved one spends her remaining time. Hospice Compare makes it easier to quickly see the quality of care for the agencies that you’re considering. It also provides information on those providers that are at risk for being terminated by Medicare. Making decisions like these can be tough, especially when you’re making them on behalf of a loved one. Medicare’s new website is designed to eliminate the confusion when it comes to choosing a hospice provider.