As the last of the baby-boomer population moves into middle age, they're not only faced with caring for elderly parents, there's also the fact that extended life expectancies have exposed flaws in the way we care for this aging population as they near the end of life. Alternative care options are widely available, however, the way Medicare payments are structured favors procedures, which can be unproductive and wasteful after a certain age. Most often with end-of-life care, there's no discussion on creating a plan that focuses on the quality of life and alleviation of symptoms.
In many cases, palliative care is a better alternative. It not only gives patients and family members the time to decide what course of treatment is best, but gives everyone involved the chance to select an appropriate treatment plan for persons with advanced or life-limiting illnesses. While Medicare will cover some elements of palliative care, Medicare’s billing and reimbursement rules value procedures over practitioner time spent with patients and families.
Researchers are now looking at alternative ways to increase the use of palliative care for end-of-life Medicare patients, as it presents a key opportunity to increase value of care while lowering overall costs. Given the high cost of the default care system, lower costs are a better outcome for everyone. If you would like to learn how alternative Medicare payment models for palliative care might be developed, read more from Health Affairs "The End of Life and Serious Illness" blog series.