Don’t cut Medicaid hospice benefits

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 14, 2003

News that the Alabama Medicaid Agency is considering reducing Medicaid hospice benefits for terminally ill patients is troubling indeed.

The Alabama Medicaid office confirmed it was considering the cuts in late September.

The burgeoning hospice care movement has proven to be one of the bright spots of the last 40 years in the field of medicine. Simply put, hospice care seeks to impart a sense of dignity to the process of dying.

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Typically, hospice patients have been given a prognosis of having six months or less to live. Rather than being sent to a medical care facility, they remain at home with family in familiar surroundings. With comprehensive in-home medical care provided by trained health care professionals, hospice patients receive the care they require to be as comfortable as possible.

Family members receive the support they require to continue to care for their loved ones without exhausting themselves.

Hospice care is medicine with a heart. Patients spend their last days, not in some sterile environment that is all too often terrifying to someone on the brink of death, but in the relative comfort and emotional security of their own homes.

Even more encouraging, hospice care has repeatedly been shown to be a cost-effective alternative to other forms of medical care.

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 45 states now provide Medicaid hospice benefits and two others are on the brink of doing so. It makes no sense &045; medically, emotionally or financially &045; for Alabama to be considering reducing this much needed benefit.