Our RoseRock Healthcare team members have frequent opportunities to speak to many patients and family members about our care. These conversations always inspire us. It is a privilege to bring this wonderful healthcare program to the attention of people who need it. But we are always discouraged by the number of myths that circulate about hospice care and the way these myths keep patients from getting the care they deserve. Here are just a few of the myths we commonly hear along with the truth about each of them.
Myth: You can only have 6 months of hospice care
Terminally ill individuals, who are Medicare beneficiaries, can have hospice care as long as a physician says that the disease may result in death within 6 months if the disease follows a normal course.
In 2000, Medicare clearly laid out the rules; former CMS Administrator, Nancy Ann DeParle sent a message to the nation’s hospices to encourage them to care for all terminally ill patients, regardless of how long they might live. “There is a disturbing misperception that hospices and beneficiaries will be penalized if a patient lives longer than six months,” she wrote in a letter dated September 12, 2000. “Nothing could be further from the truth. . . In no way are hospice beneficiaries restricted to six months of coverage. There is no limit on how long an individual beneficiary can receive hospice services as long as they meet the eligibility criteria.”
In addition to Medicare, hospice care is paid for by the Department of Veterans Affairs and most private insurance plans. Most of the other commercial insurance plans follow rules similar to Medicare’s rules. Patients can have this care as long as they continue to meet medical criteria for terminal illness.
Myth: If you want hospice you have to agree to a “do not resuscitate order”
Having a Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR) in place is not a requirement to receive hospice care. When a patient signs the DNR it means that he or she does not wish to be resuscitated should breathing or heartbeats stop. While many terminally ill patients elect to have a DNR in place, it is not the right choice for everyone and it is not a requirement for the hospice patient. Hospices may not discriminate based on any advance directive the patient has, or has not, signed.
Myth: A hospice patient must give up his or her personal physician
The election of the personal physician is such an important choice, that Medicare has actually written special rules protecting this right. When the patient elects the Medicare hospice benefit, the patient, or patient representative, must sign a form identifying the name of the attending physician along with an acknowledgement that the choice of this physician was the patient’s own choice.
The attending physician is an important part of the care team and leads the development of the patient’s plan of care. While receiving hospice care, the patient may choose to continue to visit the attending physician. If the hospice correctly applies Medicare’s billing rules, the patient’s attending physician will be able to continue to bill Medicare and will be paid.
What About Other Hospice Myths?
These are only three of the myths that circulate about hospice care; you may hear others. Don’t hesitate to contact us. We will give you the information that you need and that you deserve. You can also get wonderful information directly from Medicare and from AARP.