When hospice care became a Medicare benefit in 1982, it was written into the law that community volunteers had to provide a minimum of 5 percent of total patient care hours. It is one of the things which makes hospice care unique in healthcare.
The thinking was that volunteers would provide a kind of caring and point of view that neither the professional healthcare providers on the team nor the family, who is also part of the hospice team, would offer. Today every Medicare-certified hospice—public or private, secular or faith-based, for-profit or non-profit—trains community volunteers to provide 5 percent of patient care hours. It’s the law.