Hospice Care

Hospice is a philosophy of care to assist persons who are terminally ill- those with a life expectancy of six months or less. The focus in on providing care in one's home whenever possible. However, hospice care is provided in nursing homes and in a few residential hospices in Minnesota.

Hospice care is palliative care or comfort care (rather than curative active treatment), symptom control and pain relief. The care is holistic focusing on the person's emotional, social, physical and spiritual needs coordinated and provided by a physician-directed team of professionals: a social worker, nurses, therapists, home health aides, clergy and volunteers.

The hospice team often works in partnership with other agencies to ensure that the individual receives necessary services. Each hospice has available, 24 hours a day, a staff person to talk with about any concerns relating to the person's condition. Generally, a nurse coordinates the person's care. Grief counseling is available to both the individual and family.

In Minnesota all hospice programs must operate under a hospice license. About two thirds of them are also Medicare-certified. The Minnesota Department of Health licenses and certifies hospice programs.

The main difference between a Medicare-certified and a licensed-only hospice is that Medicare pays for certain medications.

Choosing a hospice depends on the individual's entire health condition. Talk with your physician about the hospice option.


To be eligible for Medicare hospice benefits you must:

  • Be enrolled in Part A Medicare;
  • Receive a physician certification that you are terminally ill (life expectancy of twelve months or less);
  • Sign a statement that you choose to use the hospice benefit (you must enroll out of your standard Part A benefit); and
  • Select a Medicare-certified hospice program.

Hospice care is given in periods of care:

  • Two 90-day periods followed by an unlimited number of 60-day periods.

At the beginning of each period of care, your physician must certify that you are terminally ill.

You may stop hospice care at any time and return to your original Medicare plan or your Medicare managed care plan.

The hospice services covered by Medicare are:

  • Doctor services
  • Nursing care
  • Medical equipment (such as a hospital bed, walker or wheelchair)
  • Medical supplies (such as bandages or bladder control supplies)
  • Drugs for symptom control and pain relief
  • Home health aide and homemaker services
  • Physical, occupational and speech therapy
  • Social worker services
  • Dietary counseling
  • Short-term care in the hospital (including respite care*)
  • Counseling to help you and your family with grief and loss

The team of people who deliver the above services work together to plan and coordinate your care with you and your family.

It is important to note that although hospice has a staff person available on-call 24 hours a day, the services, such as home health aide services, are generally provided only a few hours a day or week. If you need more assistance, you will need to pay for it or seek another source such as Alternative Care or Medical Assistance. The hospice social worker can help locate resources.

Medicare pays the hospice directly for your care and you must pay a portion of the cost of outpatient drugs and inpatient respite care.

*Respite care is care available so that the person (typically a relative) who cares for you on a regular basis can have time for rest or to attend to other matters. Medicare pays for your respite care in a Medicare-approved place such as a residential hospice, hospital or nursing home.

For more information about hospice or to locate a hospice in Minnesota contact:

Minnesota Network of Hospice & Palliative Care
2365 McKnight Rd. N, Ste. 2
North St. Paul, MN 55109

651-659-0423 or toll free: 1-800-214-9597


For licensing information about Minnesota hospice programs contact:

Minnesota Department of Health
Facility & Provider Compliance Division
P.O. Box 64900
St. Paul, MN 55164-0900



For more information about Medicare hospice visit: www.medicare.gov

To place a complaint about a hospice provider contact:

Office of Health Facility Complaints
P.O. Box 64970
St. Paul, MN 55164-0970

651-215-8713 or 1-800-369-7994


Office of Ombudsman for Long-Term Care
PO Box 64971
St. Paul, MN 55164-0971

651-431-2555 or 1-800-657-3591