Cost and reimbursement analysis of end-of-life cancer inpatients. The case of the Greek public healthcare sector

Abstract

Background: While hospital-based Palliative Care services are usually covered through the main funding healthcare framework, traditional reimbursement methods have been criticized for their appropriateness. The present study investigates for the first time the case of treating end-of-life cancer patients in a Greek public hospital in terms of cost and reimbursement. Methods: This retrospective observational study used health administrative data of 135 deceased cancer patients who were hospitalized in the end of their lives. Following the cost estimation procedure, which indentified both the individual patient and overhead costs, we compared the relevant billing data and reimbursement requests to the estimated costs. Results: The average total cost per patient per day was calculated to be 97 EUR, with equal participation of individual patient's and overhead costs. Length of stay was identified as the main cost driver. Reimbursement was performed either by per-diem fees or by Diagnosis Related Groups’ (DRGs), which were correspondingly associated with under or over reimbursement risks. In the case of the combined use of the two available reimbursement alternatives a cross-subsidization phenomenon was described. Conclusion: Although the cost of end-of-life care proved to be quite low, the national per-diem rate fails to cover it. DRGs designed for acute care needs are rather unsuitable for such sub acute hospitalizations. Policy summary: There is a concrete need for reconsidering the current reimbursement schemes for this group of patients as part of any national plan concerning the integration and reformation of Palliative Care services. Otherwise, there is a serious danger for public institutions’ reluctance to admit them with a serious impact on access and equity of end-of-life cancer care. © 2023 Elsevier Lt

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