Diane Meier with a clear description of palliative care and making the distinction between non-hospice palliative care and hospice care. Palliative care treats symptoms and focuses on helping patients achieve the best possible quality of life regardless of the overall prognosis of their illness. You can receive chemotherapy and other treatments while also receiving palliative care.
Hospice care is a comprehensive, team based approach to providing palliative care for persons who are imminently dying. In the Medicare program, you must unelect curative treatments in order to receive hospice care....but you can receive non-hospice palliative care alongside treatments designed to cure your disease.
It should be a policy priority for Medicare to open up the hospice benefit and allow 'concurrent' care, meaning get rid of the requirement to 'unelect' curative care to receive hospice; the current policy set up is almost certainly a barrier to Medicare beneficiaries receiving all the palliative care services that they need. Medicare needs expanded funding and flexibility to maximize the availability of palliative care to Medicare beneficiaries.
Update: here is more detailed post from this past August talking about palliative care and needed policy changes for the Medicare hospice benefit.