Higher regulatory demands, money for hospice providers

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Hospice is growing fastest in skilled nursing facilities, new report shows
Hospice is growing fastest in skilled nursing facilities, new report shows
When others were sweating out funding threats or declines, hospice providers were able to enjoy the announcement of a 2.5% rise in Medicare payments for fiscal 2012. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services released a final rule for it that was published in the Aug. 4 Federal Register.

The increase factors in a 0.5% decrease in payments to hospices related to updated wage index data and a 3% rise in the market basket update. It is the third year of the agency's seven-year phase-out of a wage index budget neutrality adjustment factor.

Also, as previously announced under the Affordable Care Act, hospice providers also must begin reporting on quality of care in fiscal 2013. Those that do not will see their market basket update fall by 2% in fiscal 2014.

The phased-in start is designed to ease hospice operators into the stricter regulatory demands, advocates said.

CMS officials also attempted to clarify the “face-to-face” rule regarding recertification of a hospice patient's status.

New rules state that any hospice physician may perform a face-to-face encounter with the hospice patient, regardless of whether the same physician recertifies the terminal illness or writes the recertification narrative.

CMS will change the way it counts hospice patients in 2012 and beyond, calculating the number of Medicare hospice beneficiaries in care for a given year based on the number of days the patient received care in each hospice. It will allow hospice providers who do not want a change in their patient counting method to continue using current practices.