End-of-life care in the United States: policy issues and model programs of integrated care
International Journal of Integrated Care
End-of-life care financing and delivery in the United States is fragmented and uncoordinated, with little integration of acute and long-term care services. Objective: To assess policy issues involving end-of-life care, especially involving the hospice benefit, and to analyse model programs of integrated care for people who are dying. Methods: The study conducted structured interviews with stakeholders and experts in end-of-life care and with administrators of model programs in the United
... n the United States, which were nominated by the experts. Results: The two major public insurance programs-Medicare and Medicaid-finance the vast majority of end-of-life care. Both programs offer a hospice benefit, which has several shortcomings, including requiring physicians to make a prognosis of a six month life expectancy and insisting that patients give up curative treatment-two steps which are difficult for doctors and patients to makeand payment levels that may be too low. In addition, quality of care initiatives for nursing homes and hospice sometimes conflict. Four innovative health systems have overcome these barriers to provide palliative services to beneficiaries in their last year of life. Three of these health systems are managed care plans which receive capitated payments. These providers integrate health, long-term and palliative care using an interdisciplinary team approach to management of services. The fourth provider is a hospice that provides palliative services to beneficiaries of all ages, including those who have not elected hospice care. Conclusions: End-of-life care is deficient in the United States. Public payers could use their market power to improve care through a number of strategies.