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Visualizing Health Policy: Medicare and End-of-Life Care

This Visualizing Health Policy infographic provides a snapshot of Medicare and end-of-life care. Of 2.6 million total deaths in the United States in 2014, 2.1 million were Medicare beneficiaries. Although Medicare spent significantly more on care for people at the end of life who died in 2014 ($34,529 per person) than for other beneficiaries that year ($9,121 per person), the share of total Medicare spending for people at the end of life decreased from 18.6% to 13.5% between 2000 and 2014. Medicare spending for people at the end of life also decreased with age. Hospice use among Medicare beneficiaries at the end of life increased between 2000 and 2014 to nearly half (46%) of all beneficiaries. Medicare spending on hospice also increased during that period, from $2.3 billion to $10.4 billion. Surveys show that more than 7 in 10 people aged 65 years and older have not discussed end-of-life care with a physician, and that 4 in 10 have not documented their end-of-life care wishes. Before Jan. 1, 2016, Medicare did not reimburse physicians for patient visits to discuss end-of-life care, and as of 2016, 68% of physicians report that they have not received training for such discussions.

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Visualizing Health Policy is a monthly infographic series produced in partnership with the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The full-size infographic is freely available on JAMA’s website and is published in the print edition of the journal.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.