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A hospice care patient watches television in the morning in the hospice care wing of California Medical Facility (CMF) on December 17, 2013 in Vacaville, California. - 

The Centers for Disease Control tells us that about 2.5 million people die in this country every year.

And 44 percent of those people are now dying in hospice care.

That's surely a cultural change, but it's also a business opportunity. Hospice care has become a $17 billion business.

Fran Smith wrote a book about hospice care called "Changing the Way We Die."

She describes hospice care as the most successful part of the healthcare industry, and says it's surprising who is getting into the game.

"More than half of hospice programs are run by for profit companies. All the growth in hospice over the past ten years has been in the for-profit sector. The company that owns Roto-Rooter, ChemEd, is the owner of the largest hospice chain in the country - Vitas."

Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal