The Medicare Hospice Benefit was established in 1983 to provide Medicare beneficiaries with access to high-quality end-of-life care. Considered the model for quality care for people facing a life-limiting illness, hospice is a patient-centered, cost-effective philosophy of care that utilizes an interdisciplinary team of professionals to provide compassionate and expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes.

At the center of hospice and palliative care is the belief that each of us has the right to die pain-free and with dignity, and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so.

Patients may receive care at their place of residence (including their private residence, nursing home, or residential facility), a hospice inpatient facility, or an acute care hospital. The location of care may change depending on the nature of a patient’s disease progression, medical needs of the patient, as well as the plan of care established between the patient and the hospice. An interdisciplinary team of professionals is responsible for the care of each hospice patient, regardless of the patient’s setting. In 2014, 58.9 percent1 of hospice patients received care at their place of residence at the time of death.

A patient is eligible for hospice care if two physicians determine that the patient has a prognosis of six months or less to live. Patients must be re-assessed for eligibility at regular intervals, but there is no limit on the amount of time a patient can spend under hospice care. In 2016, an estimated 1.43 million patients received hospice services. According to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), 50 percent of Medicare decedents utilized hospice care in 2017.

Download a Medicare Hospice Benefit information sheet from Hospice Action Network.