If you or someone you know faces a serious illness, you could benefit from palliative care. You can have this care at any stage in your illness. Palliative care might be part of end-of-life care, but it’s also an essential area of general patient care — whenever it’s needed. Let’s talk more about palliative care and how Medicare coverage applies.
What Is Palliative Care?
It’s special medical care for people who live with a severe illness. Sicknesses cause symptoms and stress. Palliative care provides pain relief and comfort to improve quality of life — for the patient and the family. In other words, a primary goal is to manage symptoms.
Palliative care is different from curative care, which aims at treating a health condition. However, providers can administer palliative care along with curative treatment.
Who Performs Palliative Care?
Hospice care — includes a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists — delivers palliative care. These trained specialists will collaborate with a patient’s doctors to give additional support.
The care is based on the patient’s needs and not on their prognosis. Also, it’s relevant at any age and any phase in severe illness.
Palliative care may address symptoms such as:
- Trouble sleeping
- Mental confusion
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
Patients with these diseases qualify for palliative care:
- Kidney failure
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic lung disease
- Congestive heart failure (CHF)
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
And many other long-lasting, serious illnesses.
How Does Medicare Cover Palliative Care?
Hospice services provide palliative care. Fortunately, Medicare Part A generally covers hospice care.
A hospice team may consist of one or many doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and aids who will usually give the care in your home. However, sometimes Medicare covers an inpatient hospital stay if your hospice provider says you need it.
You can learn more about how each part of Medicare works here.
What If You Don’t Need Hospice Care?
In this case, Medicare Part B or Part A may cover services that make you more comfortable — if your doctor says they’re medically necessary.
For instance, if you get chemotherapy, Medicare might cover anti-nausea drugs (like Benadryl or Zofran) that you take by mouth.
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