EUREKA, California / Times-Standard / April 8, 2011
My Word: Death and taxes
By Marylee Bytheriver / For The Times-Standard
”Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” That phrase comes to mind in April when we are all thinking of taxes.
As unpleasant as it is to think about taxes, at no time of the year do any of us want to think about death -- either our own or the death of a loved one.
Still for when the inevitable occurs, it is comforting to know that end of life hospice care doesn't cost anything. It is a little known fact that for most of us, hospice care is a Medicare benefit we have already paid for through those pesky taxes.
Illustation by courtesy of Hospice of Humboldt
My friend's father, like most people who are dying, was elderly, and therefore was receiving Medicare -- the tax-supported health insurance for Americans 65 years or older. At Hospice of Humboldt, about 85 percent of our patients have Medicare.
Unfortunately, sometimes younger people also have life-limiting conditions. Medi-Cal pays for hospice care for low-income patients who are not old enough for Medicare. So does Blue Cross, Blue Shield and other private insurance programs. Even the VA pays for hospice care for qualified veterans.
At Hospice of Humboldt, about 1 percent of our patients are not covered by any of these insurance programs -- people who earn too much to qualify for Medi-Cal, are too young for Medicare, and do not have job that provides health insurance. For private pay patients such as these, we have a sliding fee scale based on income.
All our patients and families receive the same full range of heartfelt services -- medical care and personal care for the patient, support and comfort for the family during the patient's final illness, and grief support services both before and after the patient's death.
None of us can avoid paying taxes, and none of us can avoid dying. But at least we don't have to pay for receiving expert, compassionate hospice care at the end of life. For most of us, our taxes will pay for hospice care.
Marylee Bytheriver is the executive director of Hospice of Humboldt.
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