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Keywords:

  • end of life;
  • ethnicity;
  • site of death;
  • Medicare and Medicaid;
  • dually eligible

This is a retrospective study using secondary data to investigate variation in site of death by ethnicity and to determine how hospice enrollment affects site of death. Data for this study were obtained between 1996 and 2000 from linked Medi-Cal and Medicare claims from 18 California counties participating in a state legislated effort to improve chronic care services in California. Subjects examined in this study included 38,519 decedents aged 65 and older who died between 1997 and 2000 and were dually eligible the entire year immediately before death. Demographic variables were site of death, cause of death, hospice use, and care setting in the year before death. Results revealed that blacks and Latinos were significantly more likely than whites to die at home, although being black or Asian was negatively associated with hospice use. This variation did not change when hospice use was controlled. Thus, although minorities were more likely to die at home, they were less likely to receive hospice care. Because patients dying at home without hospice care report higher rates of pain than those who have hospice care, physicians must work to ensure that minority patients understand all end-of-life care options, including hospice, and how these care options can be delivered in a culturally competent manner.