Blue Shield of California has launched a new program to raise awareness among its members of home-based palliative care.
The insurance company is working with the tech firm Vital Decisions, which offers a Guided Living Voice program in which care alignment coordinators conduct goals-of-care conversations and provide education to patients and families about the nature of palliative care. If appropriate, the coordinator will refer the patient to palliative care, including home-based care and telehealth services.
“At Blue Shield, our palliative care program exemplifies our vision of providing access to care that’s worthy of our family and friends, and we look forward to working with Vital Decisions to help spread the word about this care to more members with serious illnesses,” said Seth Glickman, chief health officer, Blue Shield of California.
A rising number of Medicare Advantage health plans are offering home- and community-based palliative care as a supplemental benefit, a trend that could spell further growth for hospices offering those services as well as improving access for patients.
According to an analysis by ATI Advisory, 61 health plans nationwide are offering in-home palliative care as a benefit. This is up from 29 in 2019. More than 455,000 beneficiaries are enrolled in these plans.
Hospices provide about 50% of home-based palliative care in the United States according to the Center to Advance Palliative Care, and the number of providers that are diversifying their services lines to include palliative care continues to increase.
Vital Decisions’ consultations are being conducted virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Blue Shield palliative care program is also relying more heavily on telehealth during the global outbreak. Clincians nevertheless continue to make home visits when necessary for symptom management and other care.
“Blue Shield of California is at the forefront of innovation in palliative care,” said Leah Puccio, CEO of Vital Decisions. “The health plan’s ability to flex its palliative program to accommodate the needs of members as they cope with the challenges associated with COVID-19 demonstrates a commitment to making the individual’s health a top priority.”
Community-based palliative care can reduce total health care costs by 36%, a Turn-Key Health paper indicated. These services can also reduce hospital admissions by 48%, resulting in 28% cost savings per patient day. In the outpatient setting, community-based palliative care has been shown to reduce emergency department visits by 35% and hospitalizations by 50%.
Home-based palliative care could reduce societal health care costs by $103 billion within the next 20 years, the nonprofit economic research group Florida TaxWatch said in a 2019 report.