Hospice Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Healthcare Professionals
Find the answers to overarching questions about what hospice is, what factors determine hospice eligibility, and financial questions, including billing and reimbursement specific to hospice care.
You can find more answers in our full database of Frequently Asked Questions.
- What is hospice? Hospice cares for patients with advanced illness by focusing on pain relief, symptom management, and emotional and spiritual end-of-life issues.
- What are the signs that a patient might be ready for hospice services? When the burden of treatment outweighs the benefits and/or the patient has had multiple hospitalizations over the last several months, he or she might be ready for hospice.
- When is the right time for hospice? Physicians, patients, and families should consider hospice services when medical treatments can no longer cure their disease and/or the symptom burden outweighs the benefits of treatment.
- How can a physician know whether a patient will die in the next six months? The physician applies their best medical judgment to the situation.
- What if the patient has special needs? The hospice plan of care is individualized to meet each patient’s needs. If special equipment (e.g., wheelchair, lift, trapeze bar, etc.) or therapies (e.g., respiratory therapy, physical therapy, etc.) are needed, the hospice provider offers these as part of its services.
- Who pays for hospice? Is it covered by insurance? Medicare? Medicaid? If the patient has Medicare Part A and meets hospice eligibility requirements, then the government will pay as much as 100% of the cost of hospice care. In such a case, there is no deductible and no copayment for the patient. Even if a hospice patient is enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, hospice benefits are covered by original Medicare.
- How is hospice covered for patients without insurance? Hospice admissions staff work with patients who are not insured to determine financial responsibility, self-payments, and eligibility for other benefits that could help pay for services.
- If Medicare covers hospice services, does that preclude other Medicare coverage? No. If a hospice patient needs hospitalization for any reason unrelated to the terminal disease, traditional Medicare will cover that care. The patient’s medical insurance continues to pay for care unrelated to the terminal diagnosis.
- How does hospice work with an HMO? Hospice provides care related to the primary diagnosis; the HMO takes care of unrelated healthcare.
- Who is on the hospice team? Hospice patients receive services from an interdisciplinary team (IDT), including a physician, registered nurse, hospice aide, social worker, chaplain, bereavement specialist, volunteer, and other healthcare professionals.
- Where do patients go to receive hospice services? Usually, hospice patients receive care in the place they call home.
- How is hospice different from home health services? Hospice offers services home health does not, such as prescriptions, medical equipment, and visits from an interdisciplinary healthcare staff. The goal of hospice is to keep the patient comfortable as symptoms increase. Hospice services change to fit the needs of the patient.
- Why would a nursing home resident require hospice services? Nursing homes focus on routine daily care and rehabilitation. Nursing home residents who receive hospice services get customized support determined by their plan of care.
- What are hospice “levels of care?” Medicare requires all hospice providers to offer four levels of care for patients and their families.
- Who is VITAS Healthcare? VITAS® (pronounced VEE-tahss) Healthcare is the nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care.
- Why should I choose VITAS? At VITAS Healthcare, everyone in the company works from the same belief: patients and families come first.