Does Medicare cover Palliative Care?

Mike Olmos by Mike Olmos | Licensed since 2010
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This article was updated on: 10/06/2018

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You may have heard about palliative care as part of end-of-life care, such as a hospice provides. But palliative care is also seen as an important part of patient care in general, anytime it’s needed, according to the National Institute of Nursing Research.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care refers to care aimed at keeping you comfortable and free of pain, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) publication Medline Plus. By contrast, curative care is designed to treat your health condition, according to the Merriam-Webster medical dictionary.

Your health-care providers may give you palliative care while also treating your illness. However, typically hospice care only provides palliative care.

How might palliative care help you recover?

Health-care providers may use palliative care not just to relieve your pain symptoms, but for a variety of other reasons, reports the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR). Palliative care might also help treat symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Poor appetite
  • Sleep problems
  • Side effects from other treatments for your illness

For example, a health-care provider might give you pain medications. Your doctor might order physical or occupational therapy, or advice about your diet, to help relieve your symptoms.

Palliative care might also help the communication flow between patients, family members, and doctors (for example, as you prepare to go home from the hospital).

How does Medicare cover palliative care?

Hospice services deliver palliative care. Medicare Part A may cover hospice care if you’re considered terminally ill and don’t want any more treatment for your disease, or your doctor finds that the treatments aren’t working.

Medicare Part A may cover the services of a hospice team that may include one or more doctors, nurses, hospice aides, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals. Hospice care is typically given in your home, but in some cases Medicare may cover an inpatient hospital stay if your hospice provider decides you need it. For more details about how Medicare covers hospice care, see Does Medicare Cover Hospice Care?

If you don’t need hospice care, Medicare Part B and/or Part A might cover certain services that may improve your comfort if your doctor orders them as medically necessary. For example, if you receive chemotherapy, Medicare might cover anti-nausea medications taken by mouth.

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