December 30, 2013

Regarding the Dec. 27 front-page article “In hospice, but not dying”:

The goal of hospice care is not to ensure that patients die in a specified time. It is to ensure that patients receive compassionate care at a critical point in their lives.

The Post’s article did not include a single doctor, patient or family member criticizing the care that hospices provide to patients and their families facing difficult end-of-life decisions. Right now, hospice care accounts for only 2 percent of Medicare spending, and only 44 percent of deaths in the United States come after some type of hospice care. Growth is to be expected as more people realize that hospice can reduce the stress, suffering and anxiety that come with the unpredictable nature of end-of-life care. That is why Congress and Medicare did not specify a maximum allowable hospice stay and instead allowed physicians to recommend hospice care based on their clinical judgment of a patient’s prognosis. Some patients improve because they receive quality hospice care sooner.

As The Post acknowledged, the average length of hospice stay is much shorter than the six-month prognosis needed to receive the hospice benefit. Would it represent progress if more patients died sooner? As a health-care and hospice provider, we are committed to ensuring that our patients receive effective, appropriate and compassionate care at this difficult time. That is how we measure success.

Kelli Luneborg, Plano, Tex.

The writer is public relations director for Golden Living, the parent company of AseraCare Hospice.