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Improving care for the seriously ill

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illness. It provides comprehensive management of those patients’ physical, psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual health.

Palliative care is patient- and family-centered care that:

  • Prioritizes quality of life
  • Seeks to ease the symptoms of serious illness. 

Palliative care is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness. It can be provided along with curative treatment.

Blue Shield's palliative care program

Palliative care graphicPalliative care is covered as a standard medical service offered to all members with primary coverage from Blue Shield of California. Members can find out more by calling the customer service number on their Blue Shield member ID card. 

Starting in 2018, it is also available for Medi-Cal beneficiaries enrolled with Care1st Health Plan, an affiliate of Blue Shield. 

Palliative care services are offered in addition to a member’s existing care and treatment.

Blue Shield is the only health plan offering its members home-based palliative care in all 58 counties in California. 

This model of care features home visits from integrated teams that include:

  • Physicians
  • Nurses
  • Social workers
  • Chaplains
  • Home health aides
  • Other specialists 

This forms a comprehensive care team and support system for patients facing serious illness. 

Available services

Blue Shield members receiving home-based palliative care benefit from an array of services delivered at home, including:

  • Care management and coordination 
  • Pain and symptom management
  • Meal delivery and transportation in certain cases
  • Assistance with treatment decisions and care planning
  • 24/7 access to care and support

Our statewide network includes more than 30 contracted home-based palliative care programs throughout the state.

In addition to home-based palliative care, Blue Shield members can access care through:

  • Outpatient palliative care programs in all metropolitan service areas
  • Telemedicine-enabled palliative care programs for rural members
  • Inpatient palliative care programs in all tertiary hospitals

2017 outcomes for home-based palliative care

  • More than 800 members – as well as their families and caregivers – received home-based palliative care services through Blue Shield in 2017
  • Blue Shield’s home-based palliative care programs received an average patient and family satisfaction score of 96%
  • Ninety percent of Blue Shield of California members enrolled in palliative care who have passed away did so in accordance with their wishes to be in their homes at the end of life. A 2012 study found 70% of Californians would prefer to remain in their homes at the end of life; however, only 32% of all Californians passed away at home
  • Blue Shield members referred to palliative care were more than twice as likely to use their hospice benefits when compared to the national average

We train our nurse case managers to help seriously ill patients and their families understand and explore their care options.

In addition, we help our network of primary care providers better serve their seriously ill patients by offering tools and resources on palliative care.

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