Palliative Care vs. Hospice

Hospice and palliative care both offer relief from the pain and symptoms of a serious illness. They also address the emotional, social and spiritual needs of patients and their families. In fact, hospice is a type of palliative care for people at the final stages of life. Compare and contrast the differences between hospice and palliative care below.

Hospice Care

Palliative Care


Because of Medicare requirements, hospice is typically utilized by patients with a life expectancy of six months or less. A patient's doctor and a hospice medical director work together to determine life expectancy.


Palliative care is for people at any stage of illness. The illness is not required to be life-limiting. Like hospice, palliative care addresses a patient's physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.

Goal of care

Patients in hospice are not seeking a cure for their illness. Their goal is managing pain and other symptoms to improve quality of life with the time they have remaining.

Goal of care

Palliative care patients can seek treatment to cure their illness or prolong life while getting medical help to manage their pain and other symptoms.

Why patients choose hospice

Patients sometimes decide they no longer want to go through painful or difficult treatments that may not improve or extend their life.

Why patients choose palliative care

Patients are commonly seeking relief from pain, fatigue, nausea or the stress that comes with a serious illness or the side effects from medical treatment.

Benefits to pay for hospice vs. palliative care


Hospice is covered by Medicare, VA benefits, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and many private insurance plans. Services related to the life-limiting illness, such as nursing and home aide visits, medication, equipment and supplies, are covered with few or no out-of-pocket expenses.

Palliative Care

Palliative care consultations are covered by Medicare, VA benefits and most private insurance plans. Co-pays may apply.

Medicare Part A benefits may cover palliative care, much like getting care from a specialist. To get palliative care at home, request a referral for home-based palliative care which is covered by Medicare under some circumstances.

Medicare Part B may cover some of the services and supplies to treat your disease. If you qualify for Medicaid benefits, they may cover palliative care treatments and medications.

Many private insurance plans also cover palliative care as part of their chronic care, long-term care or hospice benefit.


The downloadable Medicaid hospice toolkit explains hospice and palliative care benefits and their differences.