Closing the Gap in Hospice Utilization for the Minority Medicare Population
Hughes, M. Courtney, 1976--
Vernon, Erin, 1975--
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Background: Medicare spends about 20% more on the last year of life for Black and Hispanic people than White people. With lower hospice utilization rates, racial/ethnic minorities receive fewer hospice-related benefits such as lesser symptoms, lower costs, and improved quality of life. For-profit hospices have higher dropout rates than nonprofit hospices, yet target racial/ethnic minority communities more through community outreach. This analysis examined the relationship between hospice utilization and for-profit hospice status and conducted an economic analysis of racial/ethnic minority utilization. Method: Cross-sectional analysis of 2014 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), U.S. Census, and Hospice Analytics data. Measures included Medicare racial/ ethnic minority hospice utilization, for-profit hospice status, estimated cost savings, and several demographic and socioeconomic variables. Results: The prevalence of for-profit hospices was associated with significantly increased hospice utilization among racial/ethnic minorities. With savings of about $2,105 per Medicare hospice enrollee, closing the gap between the White and racial/ethnic minority populations would result in nearly $270 million in annual cost savings. Discussion: Significant disparities in hospice use related to hospice for-profit status exist among the racial/ethnic minority Medicare population. CMS and state policymakers should consider lower racial/ethnic minority hospice utilization and foster better community outreach at all hospices to decrease patient costs and improve quality of life.