Frequently Asked Questions

What is palliative care?

Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.

Palliative care is provided by a specialized team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.

Learn more about palliative care and to access the Provider Directory of Hospitals,  at

Who requires palliative care?

Palliative care is appropriate for anyone suffering a serious, chronic or life-threatening illness (e.g., cancer, cardiac disease, respiratory disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer′s, AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and more). You can receive palliative care at any age at any stage of an illness.

How do you pay for palliative care?

Palliative care is treated in the same way as medical services (e.g. cardiology). Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover all or part of palliative care.

How do you get palliative care?

Palliative care is provided in most hospitals. It is also often available in outpatient clinics and at home. Patients should ask their doctor for a referral to the palliative care team. The team works in partnership with your own doctor.

The team is composed of palliative care doctors, nurses and social workers. Depending on the hospital, teams may also include other disciplines such as pharmacy. You can find palliative care in a hospital near you through the Provider Directory.

Do patients have to give up their own doctor?

No. Palliative care teams are consultants and work together with the primary doctor.

Why a state-by-state report card?

The goal of the state-by-state report card is to determine whether seriously ill patients throughout the United States are receiving equitable care.

This issue is critical. There are millions of Americans living with serious illness, and this number is expected to more than double over the next 25 years with the aging of the baby boomers. Most seriously ill people will spend time in the hospital over the course of their illness.

What does the report card measure?

The report card measures the extent to which seriously ill patients and their families have access to palliative care teams in hospitals. Specifically, it examines variations at the state level in order to assess whether people facing serious illness throughout the United States are receiving equitable care.

Grades are based upon the percentage, per individual state, of palliative care teams in hospitals with 50 or more beds. Hospitals with 50 or more beds are the primary focus of the report card since smaller hospitals than this are unlikely to be able to support a full interdisciplinary palliative care team.

This national and state-by-state report presents the most accurate estimate to date of the prevalence of hospital palliative care programs in the United States.

Who conducted the study?

This report, an update of the 2011 edition, is the result of a collaboration between the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) and the National Palliative Care Research Center (NPCRC). The research team was led by R. Sean Morrison, MD, director of the National Palliative Care Research Center. Data was obtained from the AHA Annual Survey Database™ for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, and from CAPC’s National Palliative Care Registry™.

My state did not get a good grade, how can we improve?

Encourage hospitals within your state that do not have a palliative care team to implement one. Visit for help with tools, training and technical assistance. See Recommendations

Does palliative care have an impact on hospital and healthcare spending?

Palliative care teams provide an organized, highly structured system for delivering care in the hospital. By delivering highly-effective, rigorously coordinated care, palliative care teams have a direct impact on cost reduction through:

  • Decreased ICU stays and pharmacy costs
  • Decreased hospital costs through decreased lengths of stay and unnecessary tests
  • Efficiently coordinated care transitions

What are the implications for Medicare and Medicaid?

The patient population driving runaway medical spending is the target population for palliative care:

  • The seriously ill constitute only 5-10% of patients, but account for more than half of the nation’s total healthcare costs.
  • The 10% of Medicare beneficiaries with 5 or more co-morbid illnesses account for two-thirds of total Medicare spending.
  • The 4% of the sickest Medicaid beneficiaries account for fully 48% of total program spending; 76% of the national Medicaid budget goes to acute hospital services, the most expensive setting of care.

Download the full report


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Contact Us

Inquiries about the State-by-State Report Card on Access to Palliative Care in Our Nation’s Hospitals, and/or the National Palliative Care Registry™, should be directed to:

Research Inquiries
Maggie Rogers, MPH
Senior Research Associate
Center to Advance Palliative Care

Media Inquiries
Lisa Morgan
Principal, LDM Strategies

General Inquiries
Center to Advance Palliative Care