Houston-based Vantage Hospice has launched a community-based palliative care service. This continues an industry-wide trend of hospices diversifying their services to include other forms of health care, with palliative care being the most common offering.
About 50% of community-based palliative care providers in the United States are hospices, according to the Center to Advance Palliative Care.
“It is so rewarding to finally see this program come to fruition,” said Vantage Hospice Administrator Nicole Knight. “We look forward to helping more patients achieve the best quality of life possible.”
Currently Medicare reimburses for palliative care physician services through fee-for-service payment programs that do not sufficiently cover the full range of interdisciplinary care, but calls have grown louder among health care stakeholders and policymakers during the pandemic for Medicare to establish a dedicated community-based palliative care benefit.
The number of Medicare Advantage health plans that are offering palliative care as a supplemental benefit more than doubled between 2020 and 2021. This represents a larger trend of plans offering an increasing number primarily health-related supplemental benefits.
Analysis by the consulting firm ATI Advisory found that the number of health plans offering home-based palliative care coverage jump to 134 in 2021, up from 61 last year. In-home support services, food services and social needs benefits also saw a substantial rise. All told, more than 1,350 plans are offering primarily health-related supplemental benefits this year. In 2020, the total was 635.
Payers are attracted in part to the cost savings that could be realized from expanded access to palliative care, particularly in terms of reduced hospitalizations, readmissions and emergency department visits. 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.