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According to the latest statistics available from the Hospice Association of America and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization:
More than 5,000 hospices participate in the Medicare program in the U.S. From the first program that opened in 1974, hospice programs continue to grow and are located in all 50 states.
In 2009, an estimated 1.56 million people received hospice services. Recent statistics also indicate that around 42 percent of all deaths in the U.S. occurred under the care of a hospice program.
The Medicare hospice benefit, enacted by Congress in 1982, is the primary source of payment for hospice care. In 2009, the percentage of patient days covered by the Medicare hospice benefit was 89 percent.
Women use hospice services more than men, and whites use hospice services more than African-Americans. Up to 80 percent of hospice patients are age 65 or older. More than a third of all hospice patients are 85 years or older.
People appear to use hospices for diseases that have a high burden for caregivers, such as cancer, kidney disease, and Alzheimer's disease. End-stage heart disease, stroke, and lung disease are also common illnesses tended to under hospice services.
Hospice care may prolong the lives of some terminally ill patients. In a 2007 study, the mean survival was 29 days longer for hospice patients than nonhospice patients. In a 2010 study, the median survival for patients getting palliative care (with aggressive symptom management) was 2.7 months longer than those receiving standard care. This research seems to indicate that the earlier a patient is referred to hospice, the prognosis seems to improve somewhat.