Date reviewed: 10/17/2002


Hospice is a concept of care that involves health professionals and volunteers who provide medical, psychological, and spiritual support to terminally ill patients and their loved ones. Hospice stresses quality of life—peace, comfort, and dignity. A principal aim of hospice is to control pain and other symptoms so the patient can remain as alert and comfortable as possible. Hospice services are available to persons who can no longer benefit from curative treatment; the typical hospice patient has a life expectancy of 6 months or less. Hospice programs provide services in various settings: the home, hospice centers, hospitals, or skilled nursing facilities. Patients’ families are also an important focus of hospice care, and services are designed to provide them with the assistance and support they need.

The following resources may offer assistance for people seeking hospice care and information:

  • The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization is an association of programs that provide hospice and palliative care. It is designed to increase awareness about hospice services and to champion the rights and issues of terminally ill patients and their family members. They offer discussion groups, publications, information about how to find a hospice, and information about the financial aspects of hospice. Some Spanish-language publications are available, and staff are able to answer calls in Spanish.

    Address: Suite 625
    1700 Diagonal Road
    Alexandria, VA 22314
    Telephone: 703–837–1500
    E-mail: info@nhpco.org
    Web site: http://www.nhpco.org

  • The Hospice Association of America can provide facts and statistics about hospice programs, and can also supply the publication Information About Hospice: A Consumer’s Guide. This guide offers information about the advantages and financial aspects of hospice, how to select quality hospice care that is best suited for a patient’s needs, and state resources available to patients.

    Address: 228 Seventh Street, SE.
    Washington, DC 20003
    Telephone: 202–546–4759
    Web site: http://www.nahc.org/HAA/home.html
  • The Hospice Education Institute offers information and referrals on various hospice programs around the country and provides regional seminars on hospice care throughout the United States. Comments or suggestions about hospice programs are also welcomed from health professionals and hospice volunteers.

    Address: 190 Westbrook Road
    Essex, CT 06426–1510
    Telephone: 860–767–1620
    E-mail: HOSPICEALL@aol.com
    Web site: http://www.hospiceworld.org
  • The American Cancer Society offers a variety of services to hospice patients and their families. The ACS has free fact sheets and publications about hospice as well. The address of a local ACS chapter may be obtained by calling their toll-free telephone number.

    Telephone: 1–800–ACS–2345
    Web site: http://www.cancer.org
  • Hospice Net is an organization that works exclusively through the Internet. It contains more than one hundred articles regarding end-of-life issues and is dedicated to providing information and support to patients, families, and friends facing life-threatening illnesses.

    E-mail: questions@hospicenet.org
    Web site: http://www.hospicenet.org

For many people, some hospice expenses are paid by health insurance plans (either group policies offered by employers or individual policies). Information about the types of medical costs covered by a particular policy is available from an employee’s personnel office, a hospital or hospice social worker, or an insurance company. Medical costs that are not covered by insurance are sometimes tax deductible.

Medicare, a health insurance program for the elderly or disabled that is administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services of the Federal Government, provides payment for hospice care. When a patient receives services from a Medicare-certified hospice, Medicare hospital insurance pays almost the entire cost, even for some medications that would not be paid for outside a hospice program. For information about the location of Medicare-certified hospice programs, people can call their state health department; the telephone number may be found in the state government section of a local telephone directory. The Medicare Hotline can answer general questions about Medicare benefits and coverage; it can also refer people to their regional home health intermediary for information about Medicare-certified hospice programs. The toll-free telephone number is 1–800–MEDICARE; deaf and hard of hearing callers with TTY equipment may call 1–877–486–2048. Medicare information can also be accessed at http://www.medicare.gov on the Internet.

Medicaid, a Federal program that is part of CMS and is administered by each state, is designed for patients who need financial assistance for medical expenses. Information about coverage is available from local state welfare offices, state public health departments, state social services agencies, or the state Medicaid office. Information about specific state locations may also be found at http://cms.hhs.gov/medicaid on the Internet.

In addition, local civic, charitable, or religious organizations also may be able to help patients and their families with hospice expenses.