Cost Savings: Hospice vs. Hospitals

Russ Krengel Doctors & Hospitals, Hospice

Hospice care provides dignity, comfort and for many families, significant relief from the high cost of standard medical care.

Many families will avoid talking money or financial concerns when it comes to end-of-life care because it feels a little bit off color, possibly a little bit disrespectful of the person dealing with illness. Maybe that is because we so often try to keep our deepest emotional experiences separate from the day-to-day practicalities of managing life and money. But it is important to look at cost, for many reasons, including compassion and yes, respect. 

Talking with loved ones about the finances involved with health and wellness care makes sense, is practical and can bring both you and your loved one some extra peace of mind, just when you most need it. The good news? Hospice care costs significantly less than a typical hospital stay, with average cost savings landing between $14,000 and $27,000. 

New research from health care data analytics firm Trella Health reveals that patients opting out of hospice in the final three months of life ended up with an additional $27,455 in costs and they were also 10 times more likely to require hospitalization.

The researchers examined data from more than 900,000 patients who passed away between 2018 and 2019, accounting for costs across care settings, hospitalization and emergency department utilization, among other metrics.

A recent article in Hospice News quotes Trella CEO Ian Juliano, “The research shows that hospice is undervalued for the amount of value it creates. I don’t know of any other care setting that has remotely that type of return, based on the relatively small spend.” 

Patients and families have long cited their hospice care as a source of comfort and for improving quality of life in those final weeks and months of life. Dignity and grace are built into the model, allowing families to spend their time together in a more meaningful, calm environment, and the option of staying at home means so much, for many patients.

Hospice use in the US was up to 50% for Medicare decedents in 2018, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Cancer is the most common diagnosis that leads to a decision to begin hospice care, but many patients have multiple illnesses. 

Hospice care is a free or almost free option for most Americans and is becoming more widely accepted as a treatment option of choice for people battling chronic and terminal illness. Knowing that option is available is not enough. Talk to loved ones about hospice before the need for specialized care raises. Having those conversations early will remove that awkward and somewhat indelicate topic of finance and the costs associated with and of life care. 

A decision to consider hospice means you can really spend those important last days and weeks just being together instead of possibly avoiding the topic or worse, worrying about the cost of care when you really want to spend your time and attention where it matters most, with your family.