skip to page content
Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

Health Services Research & Development

Go to the ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

HSR&D Citation Abstract

Search | Search by Center | Search by Source | Keywords in Title

What length of hospice use maximizes reduction in medical expenditures near death in the US Medicare program?

Taylor DH, Ostermann J, Van Houtven CH, Tulsky JA, Steinhauser K. What length of hospice use maximizes reduction in medical expenditures near death in the US Medicare program? Social science & medicine. 2007 Oct 1; 65(7):1466-78.

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

If you have VA-Intranet access, click here for more information

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
   Search Dimensions for VA for this citation
* Don't have VA-internal network access or a VA email address? Try searching the free-to-the-public version of Dimensions


Hospices have been expected to reduce health expenditures since their addition to the US Medicare benefit package in the early-1980s, but the literature on their ability to do so is mixed. The contradictory findings noted in previous studies may be due to selection bias and the period of cost comparison used. Accounting for these, this study focuses on the length of hospice use that maximizes reductions in medical expenditures near death. We used a retrospective, case/control study of Medicare decedents (1993-2003, National Long Term Care Survey screening sample) to compare 1819 hospice decedents, with 3638 controls matched via their predicted likelihood of dying while using a hospice. Variables used to create matches were demographic, primary medical condition, cost of Medicare financed care prior to the last year of life, nursing home residence and Medicaid eligibility. Hospice use reduced Medicare program expenditures during the last year of life by an average of $2309 per hospice user; expenditures after initiation of hospice were $7318 for hospice users compared to $9627 for controls (P < 0.001). On average, hospice use reduced Medicare expenditures during all but 2 of hospice users' last 72 days of life; about $10 on the 72nd day prior to death, with savings increasing to more than $750 on the day of death. Maximum cumulative expenditure reductions differed by primary condition. The maximum reduction in Medicare expenditures per user was about $7000, which occurred when a decedent had a primary condition of cancer and used a hospice for their last 58-103 days of life. For other primary conditions, the maximum savings of around $3500 occurred when a hospice was used for the last 50-108 days of life. Given the length of hospice use observed in the Medicare program, increasing the length of hospice use for 7 in 10 Medicare hospice users would increase savings.

Questions about the HSR&D website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.