CMS changes rules for hospice physicians

For the first time in 24 years, Medicare has updated the rules covering hospice physicians. The new CMS rules, which lay out conditions for participation, will take effect on December 2. Medicare updated the rules because hospice is becoming an increasingly popular option, with nearly 1 million Medicare beneficiaries choosing hospice services from more than 3,000 hospitals in the U.S.

Changes include updates to patient rights rules, including regs allowing patients who choose palliative care over curative treatments to help develop their own treatment plans. Such planning includes access to pain meds, ability to choose their own physician and the option to refuse treatment. The same rules will require that hospices develop quality-assessment and performance-improvement programs, involving physicians in the development of these programs.

In the future, hospice advocates hope Medicare goes further and raises reimbursements for more complex patients, because more of them could receive services through hospices rather than in a hospital. They're also hoping Medicare raises payments for some costly cancer drugs that provide a palliative benefit to patients; right now hospices can't afford to provide them.

To learn more about Medicare's plans:
- read this AMNews piece

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