Hospice Care vs. Palliative Care: Knowing the Difference

While the objective of both hospice and palliative care is pain and symptom relief, the prognosis and goals of care tend to be different. Hospice care is comfort care, for people with a terminal illness and a prognosis of six months or less. Palliative Care focuses on managing the pain, symptoms and stress of a serious illness for patients at any stage of a disease.

Hospice care is similar to palliative care, but there are important differences:


  • Hospice eligibility requires that two physicians certify that the patient has less than six months to live if the disease follows its usual course. 
  • Palliative care is begun at the discretion of the physician and patient at any time, at any stage of illness, terminal or not.

Payment- Because more than 90 percent of hospice care is paid for through the Medicare hospice benefit, hospice patients must meet Medicare’s eligibility requirements; palliative care patients do not have to meet the same requirements.

  • Hospice care costs are paid 100 percent by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance
  • Palliative care coverage varies by provider and insurance plan. Medicare cover some types of palliative care, but you might have co-pays for some treatments, equipment, hospital stays and medications. The same holds true for private plans, which typically cover palliative care, but each member’s plan may be different.

What is Covered?

  • Hospice- Medicare includes
    • Pharmaceuticals
    • Medical equipment
    • Access to care, nursing, social services, chaplain visits
    • Grief support following a death.
  • Palliative care- Varies by insurance plan, usually has co-pays or may need to pay a percentage of the costs but may include
    • Pain treatment
    • Pharmaceuticals
    • Hospital stays
    • Medical equipment

If you need any assistance or guidance when navigating this process, give your local Happier at Home a call!