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Posted March 4, 2008

Ask An Expert

Elderly Care: Medicare Coverage and Hospice

Q. My husband was put in hospice a week ago. I want to bring him home. He is in a Board & Care, and although he is not incontinent and can feed himself, they raised the rate from $3,000 a month to $4,000 a month because he is in hospice care.

If he only has 6 months or whatever to live, I do not want him to be alone. Will hospice come to our home to continue the hospice program? And how do I find out what the hospice doctor has diagnosed for my husband? Thank you.

Lettie A., Corona, California.

A. I don’t understand why it is costing you anything. If your husband has only six months to live and qualifies for hospice care, Medicare should cover his care. See http://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/02154.pdf for more details. If he is indigent, he should qualify for hospice benefits under Medicaid (Medi-Cal in your state).

Medicare will cover hospice care at home as well as in a facility, as long as the care is provided under a Medicare-approved program. If your husband is in a hospital, speak to his social worker. She should be able to help you navigate the hospice system. If you can afford it, your best bet would be to consult a private geriatric care manager in your area to help you navigate the system. Check out http://www.caremanager.org/. If your husband is not in the hospital, your local hospital, Corona Regional General Hospital has an extensive hospice program. Check them out at http://www.coronaregional.com/index.php?PageID=1411.

Your husband’s hospice doctor must give you all the relevant information regarding his condition. If he refuses, send him a certified letter demanding the information. If he still refuses, file a complaint with:

The Medical Board of California
2005 Evergreen Street, Suite 1200
Sacramento, CA 95815

This answer is provided by Jack Halpern, MPS, LNHA, an eldercare advocate and a licensed nursing home administrator based in New York City. Halpern, a nationally recognized expert on eldercare issues, is the author of many articles on eldercare and nursing home abuse, and is the CEO of My Elder Advocate. His website is www.myelderadvocate.com, and he can be reached at jhalpern@myelderadvocate.com.

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