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Hospice: A health care service that’s working

By Staff | Apr 17, 2009

There’s a lot about health care reform in the news these days. President Obama’s call for an overhaul of our nation’s health care system has triggered a national debate on what works and what doesn’t, including how Medicare dollars are spent. It seems like an appropriate time to highlight a part of our health care sector that works, specifically hospice.

Hospice is part of the solution for patients and families, and as a model of cost-efficient and high-quality health care. These programs provide invaluable services and care by enhancing the quality of life for the terminally ill, and by keeping them in the place that they consider home.

In addition, hospice is actually a cost saver for Medicare. A 2007 independent Duke University study found that it reduced Medicare costs by $2,300 per patient, amounting to $2 billion in savings a year.

Hospice has also been found to be the kind of high-quality care that patients and families want, with more than 98 percent of served families willing to recommend hospice to others. Last year, more than 1.4 million patients and their family caregivers chose the compassionate end-of-life care found through hospice.

Our four-county region of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle has also been impacted by the Medicare Hospice Benefit. In 2008 alone, Hospice of the Panhandle served 837 patients and families in Berkeley, Hampshire, Jefferson and Morgan counties. But those are just the measurable numbers of people served. So much of what Hospice provides cannot be measured. Hospice impacts the family, friends and caregivers of each patient. Hospice bereavement services, also a requirement of the Medicare Hospice Benefit, are offered to any family member or caregiver, as well as to any person in the community who is struggling to cope with a death loss. One cannot begin to measure the long-reaching, positive impact hospice has on our community. And Hospice of the Panhandle has been doing all that for 29 years.

This health care debate will be with us for some time, so it’s important to know what works. Hospice is a proven program that works and must be part of the solution.

Margaret Cogswell

Executive Director

Hospice of the Panhandle