Average Stay at Hospices Getting Shorter

WASHINGTON -- The number of Medicare patients using hospices is increasing however their length of stay is declining, according to a recent government report. The average length of stay for hospice services has declined from 74 days in 1992 to 54 days in 1998, a drop of about one-fourth, according to the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress. In 1998, 28% of all beneficiaries using hospice care did so for one week or less. Patients with diseases other than cancer accounted for the sharpest reductions.

The report comes as Medicare is moving to quell criticism from hospice providers who say current rules discourage some patients from receiving needed services. Some hospice providers say that they are under pressure to accept patients who won't linger beyond a six-month period. For more information visit www.medicare.gov.