If you qualify for hospice care, you and your family will work with your hospice team to set up a plan of care that meets your needs. For more specific information on a hospice plan of care, call your national or state hospice organization.

A hospice doctor is part of your medical team. You can also choose to include your regular doctor or a nurse practitioner on your medical team as the attending medical professional who supervises your care.

In addition, a hospice nurse and doctor are on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to give you and your family support and care when you need it.

Where you get hospice care
The hospice benefit allows you and your family to stay together in the comfort of your home unless you need care in an inpatient facility. If your hospice team determines that you need inpatient care, they'll make the arrangements for your stay.

You and your family members are the most important part of a team that may also include:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses or nurse practitioners
  • Counselors
  • Social workers
  • Pharmacists
  • Physical and occupational therapists
  • Speech-language pathologists
  • Hospice aides
  • Homemakers
  • Volunteers

How long you can get hospice care:

Hospice care is for people with a life expectancy of 6 months or less (if the illness runs its normal course). If you live longer than 6 months, you can still get hospice care, as long as the hospice medical director or other hospice doctor recertifies that you’re terminally ill.

  • You can get hospice care for two 90-day benefit periods, followed by an unlimited number of 60-day benefit periods.
  • You have the right to change your hospice provider once during each benefit period.
  • At the start of the first 90-day benefit period, your hospice doctor and your regular doctor or nurse practitioner (if you have one) must certify that you’re terminally ill (with a life expectancy of 6 months or less). At the start of each benefit period after the first 90-day period, the hospice medical director or other hospice doctor must recertify that you’re terminally ill, so you can continue to get hospice care.

Finding a hospice program

Consider these questions when choosing your hospice care providers:

  • Is the hospice provider certified and licensed by the state or federal government?
  • Does the hospice provider train caregivers to care for you at home?
  • How will your doctor work with the doctor from the hospice provider?
  • How many other patients are assigned to each member of the hospice care staff?
  • Will the hospice staff meet regularly with you and your family to discuss care?
  • How does the hospice staff respond to after-hour emergencies?
  • What measures are in place to ensure hospice care quality?
  • What services do hospice volunteers offer? Are they trained?

The hospice provider you choose must be Medicare-approved to get Medicare payment. To find out if a certain hospice provider is Medicare-approved, ask your doctor, the hospice provider, your state hospice organization, or your state health department.

If you're in a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO) and want to start hospice care, ask your plan to help find a hospice provider in your area. Your plan must help you locate a Medicare-approved hospice provider in your area.