Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan expands hospice services

Blues offer broader hospice care to terminally ill patients and their families

August 26, 2009

DETROIT - Patients battling terminal illness may opt for the state's broadest hospice health care services in Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan's expansion of hospice benefits for its members.

The enhanced hospice benefit is available to BCBSM members, except for those in some large employer groups that customize their coverage. Members should check with their group benefits administrator if they have questions.

Blue Cross's goal is to provide patients with a benefit that ensures dignity, physical comfort and emotional support during the final stages of terminal diseases," said Gwendolyn Parker, M.D., BCBSM Care Management medical director.

"Every person should have access to the very best end-of-life care," said Jeff Towns, president and CEO of Michigan Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, whose members deliver hospice care around the state. "The new Michigan Blue Cross benefit makes compassionate, quality end-of-life care more accessible. It lowers the barriers between curative and palliative care decisions. Our organization is pleased with the leadership the Blues have taken to provide its enhanced benefit."

The BCBSM hospice benefit provides the earliest entry time into routine hospice care for non-Medicare patients offered by health care companies in Michigan. It covers evaluation, consultation and education, support services, and general end-of-life information regarding living wills and advance directives — the broadest scope available.

For Blue Cross members with expanded hospice coverage:

  • The coverage period is doubled. Eligibility now begins when the patient's expected life span is 12 months or less, instead of the typical six months.
  • An initial transition period is now available. During this time the patient can have both curative treatment and hospice counseling and education. Patients' full medical-surgical benefits continue until they and their physicians jointly decide to move to traditional hospice care.

Though widely available, hospice services are underutilized in Michigan. The length of hospice stays among BCBSM members is about half the national average, which is 43 days according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospice stays average 24 days for BCBSM members. The majority who elect hospice — 66 percent — use hospice services late in their illness and for less than 10 days, That time period is too brief to benefit from the full range of hospice services available to patients and their families.

The traditional Blues hospice benefit continues to include respite for caregivers, bereavement counseling to patients and family, and case management to coordinate end-of-life services.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit organization, provides and administers health benefits to 4.7 million members residing in Michigan in addition to members of Michigan-headquartered groups who reside outside the state. The company offers a broad variety of plans including Traditional Blue Cross Blue Shield; Blue Preferred®, Community Blue℠ and Healthy Blue Incentives℠ PPOs; Blue Care Network HMO; BCN Healthy Blue Living℠; Flexible Blue℠ plans compatible with health savings accounts; Medicare Advantage; Part D Prescription Drug plans; and MyBlue℠ products in the under-age-65 individual market. BCBSM also offers dental, vision and hearing plans. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are nonprofit corporations and independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more company information, visit

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