A new study finds Medicaid beneficiaries receiving palliative care show significantly lower hospital costs while getting an extra layer of medical support.

Health Affairs will release the study in its March edition, available online and in print on March 8.

With the aging of the population, especially the baby boomers, hospitals are caring for an increasing number of patients with serious and advanced illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease and kidney failure. Palliative care teams focus specifically on improving quality of life and provide a way for hospitals to better meet the needs of these patients. In a recent study, palliative care was also shown to extend survival.

“Palliative care teams can reduce Medicaid expenditures while ensuring that people get more high-quality care that is also consistent with their goals,” said Dr. R. Sean Morrison, director of the National Palliative Care Research Center and the study’s lead author. “Policy makers should strengthen access to palliative care for seriously ill Americans, and new payment models, such as accountable care organizations, would benefit from including palliative care.”

According to the study, Medicaid beneficiaries showed significantly lower hospital costs when they were treated by a palliative care team. They also spent less time, and were less likely to die, in an intensive care unit. The palliative care they received resulted in increased communication, care planning guidance, discharge planning and pain and symptom management.

According to the study of four New York State hospitals:

  • Palliative care consultation saved hospitals an average of $6,900 per admission.
  • Significant savings were also seen in ICU expenditures. Savings of approximately $2,600 per admission were seen for palliative care patients discharged from the ICU.
  • Patients receiving palliative care spent on average 3.6 fewer days in intensive care.

If the results of the study were applied to all New York State hospitals that provide palliative care services, Medicaid hospital expenditures could show reductions of $84 million to $252 million annually. Findings are consistent with prior work focused on Medicare.

About Palliative Care

Palliative care (palliative medicine) is the medical specialty focused specifically on improving quality of life for people facing serious illness. It is appropriate at any stage of a serious illness, regardless of prognosis, and can be provided alongside curative treatment.

About the Center to Advance Palliative Care

The Center to Advance Palliative Care and the National Palliative Care Research Center are national, non-profit organizations located at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. www.capc.org www.npcrc.org

Related Links

Health Affairs

# # #

Contact: Sadia Choudhury, Center to Advance Palliative Care, Mount Sinai Medical Center 212-201-2673 or [email protected].

Get the latest updates in your inbox!