MedPAC recommends reimbursement freeze for hospice providers

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Policymakers should freeze Medicare hospice reimbursements for 2015, according to recommendations supported by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

MedPAC, which advises Congress on Medicare policy, registered support for the draft recommendation at the group's meeting Friday, according to the Bureau of National Affairs. Freezing the reimbursement rate is not expected to compromise hospice providers' ability to furnish care, MedPAC staff reported.

Hospice margins for 2014 are estimated to be 7.8%, compared with 8.7% in 2011, according to MedPAC's figures.

Long-term care professionals have disputed MedPAC's calculated margins for skilled nursing facilities in the past, arguing they are far too high. However, MedPAC's most recent estimates, announced last Thursday, were a more modest 1.8%. Still, the commission called for a 4% reduction in SNF reimbursements for 2016, prompting protests from providers.

MedPAC will formally consider the reimbursement recommendations in January. However, guidance from the group generally has been ignored in the past, with annual reimbursement cuts being far less steep than recommended.

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