Comparison of the Pathway to Hospice Enrollment between Medicare Advantage and Traditional Medicare

Claire K. Ankuda, Emmanuelle Belanger, Jennifer Bunker, Pedro Gozalo, Laura Keohane, David Meyers, Amal Trivedi, Joan M. Teno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Importance: Older adults in Medicare Advantage (MA) enroll in hospice at higher rates than those in traditional Medicare (TM), but it is unclear whether the pathway of care prior to hospice use differs between MA and TM. Objective: To examine the site of care prior to hospice enrollment for MA beneficiaries compared with those in TM. Design, Setting, and Participants: This population-based, retrospective cross-sectional study used Medicare claims data for decedents in calendar years 2011, 2013, 2016, and 2018 who enrolled in hospice in the last 90 days of life. Data were analyzed from February 11, 2022, to October 24, 2022. Exposures: Enrollment in MA or TM in the last month of life. Main Outcomes and Measures: The main outcome was the site of care prior to hospice enrollment, defined as hospital, nursing home, and home with or without home health, dichotomized as community vs hospital in a logistic regression model. Covariates included decedent demographics, hospice primary diagnosis, and county-level MA penetration. Differences in hospice length of stay between MA beneficiaries and TM beneficiaries were assessed using linear and logistic regression models. Results: In this study of 3164959 decedents, mean (SD) age was 83.1 (8.6) years, 55.8% were female, and 28.8% were enrolled in MA. Decedents in MA were more likely to enroll in hospice from a community setting than were those in TM, although the gap narrowed over time from an unadjusted 11.1% higher rate of community enrollment in MA vs TM in 2011 (50.1% vs 39.0%) to 8.1% in 2018 (46.4% vs 38.3%). In the primary adjusted analysis over the entire study period, MA enrollment was associated with an 8.09-percentage point (95% CI, 7.96-8.21 percentage points) higher rate of hospice enrollment from the community vs all other sites. This association remained in multiple sensitivity analyses to account for potential differences in the populations enrolled in MA vs TM. The mean overall hospice length of stay was 0.29 days (95% CI, 0.24-0.34 days) longer for MA decedents compared with TM decedents. Conclusions and Relevance: Compared with TM beneficiaries, those in MA were more likely to enroll in hospice from community settings vs following inpatient stays. However, hospice length of stay was not substantially different between MA and TM. Further research is needed to understand how MA plans influence hospice use and the direct association with quality of end-of-life care as reported by older adults and their families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E225457
JournalJAMA Health Forum
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 17 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy


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