More Choosing Hospice Over Hospital; Good for Senior Living Providers?

More seniors are choosing to focus on dying comfortably rather than living as long as possible, and they’re using hospice services to do so—a trend that could be favorable for both senior living providers and hospitals as health care reform rules regarding hospital readmissions kick in.

Hospice service providers everywhere are seeing growth, the Statesman Journal reports

In fiscal year 2009, expenditures for the Medicare hospice benefit totaled $12.1 billion. In 1998, that figure was $2.2 billion.

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In 2001, about 19 percent of all Medicare enrollees who died accessed hospice for three or more days. By 2007, that figure jumped to 30 percent. In 2010, 41 percent of Medicare decedents accessed hospice.

Medicare is the main source of payment for hospice services, accounting for almost 84 percent of hospice patients in 2010.

The growth is reflected at Willamette Valley Hospice, a Salem-based nonprofit, where its average daily census rose from 147 patients in 2011 to 210 patients now. Much of the growth has been since January, executive director Pam Matthews said.

Many times, people aren’t even aware of hospice services, the article says, citing Matthews, because they’re usually provided in patients’ homes, assisted living facilities or nursing homes. 

Hospitals’ reimbursements will start getting docked under healthcare reform depending on 30-day readmission rates, so communities where many residents use hospice services rather than going to a hospital could be potentially benefit. 

Some senior living providers, like Silverado Senior Living, are well-positioned for partnerships with hospitals because many of their residents rely on hospice rather than being admitted (or in many cases, readmitted) to a hospital toward the ends of their lives.

“About 80% of everyone [in Silverado communities] who passes away is receiving hospice services,” says Ann Ellett, Senior Vice President of Health Services at Silverado. “That’s way above the rest of the industry, which is more like 10-20%.” 

But the rest of the nation may start climbing toward her company’s numbers, if these trends continue, the article suggests.

Read the full Statesman Journal piece.

Written by Alyssa Gerace