By Bob Moos
Medicare’s “Compare” websites have helped millions of Americans find the right nursing home, hospital or home health care agency for themselves or their families. Now, a new Medicare online tool is available to help terminally ill patients and their loved ones find the right hospice service as well.

The “Hospice Compare” website – at www.medicare.gov/hospicecompare — displays information on almost 3,900 hospices nationwide and allows patients, family members and health care providers to get a snapshot of the quality of care each hospice service offers. The site contains data on 777 hospice agencies in Texas.

Terminally ill people who choose hospice services receive care and support for their physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs. They’re no longer seeking a cure, but they do want to live out their last weeks and months as comfortably as possible and with dignity. Hospice care is typically provided within the patient’s home.

To qualify for Medicare’s hospice benefit, you must be eligible for Medicare’s Part A hospital insurance, and your physician and your hospice medical director must certify that you have six months or less to live, assuming your illness runs its normal course. The benefit is available to people with traditional Medicare or private Medicare Advantage plans.

As long as the hospice care comes from a Medicare-approved hospice, Medicare will cover the physician services, nursing care, drugs, medical equipment and supplies, and physical and occupational therapy. Medicare will also continue to pay for the treatment of other conditions unrelated to your terminal illness.

Patients and family members who want to learn more about hospice programs in their area should talk to their doctor or call their state’s hospice organization. The number for Texas is 1-800-580-9270. The Hospice Compare website also contains a list of questions you may want to ask when looking for and choosing a hospice program.