The 6-Month Requirement… What Does It Mean?

Hospice care focuses on quality of life when a cure is no longer possible, or the burdens of treatment outweigh the benefits. Some people think that their doctor’s suggestion to consider hospice means that death is very near. That is not always the case at all. People often don’t begin hospice care soon enough to take full advantage of the help it offers.

In the United States, people enrolled in Medicare can receive hospice care if their doctor thinks they have fewer than six months to live should their disease take its usual course. Doctors have a hard time predicting how long a person will live. Health often declines slowly, and some people might need a lot of help with daily living for more than six months before they die.

Talk with your doctor if you think a hospice program might be helpful. If they agree, but think it is too soon for Medicare to cover the services, then you can investigate other ways of paying for the services.

What happens if someone under hospice care lives longer than six months?

Hospice care can be initiated and continued so long as your doctor believes you likely have fewer than six months to live.

Sometimes, people receiving hospice care live longer than six months and the care can be extended. You can get hospice care for two 90-day benefit periods, followed by an unlimited number of 60-day benefit periods.

It is also possible to leave hospice care if a patient’s condition improves or they decide they wish to resume curative care and return to hospice care later.

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