Pilot Program Gives Medicare Hospice Patients More Options

  • When patients enter hospice care, they must be certified as terminally ill with six months or less to live. Hospice provides palliative care, otherwise known as comfort care. They focus on helping the patient enjoy the maximum quality of life possible under the circumstances. Palliative care is not meant to cure any disease.

    Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced plans that should give people with terminal illness broader choices. The CMS's Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) has developed a pilot program that will allow Medicare hospice patients to receive comfort care as well as the option to continue treatment that may enable them to recover.

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    The Medicare Care Choices Model is mandated by the Affordable Care Act.  Currently, patients on Medicare are required to stop curative care in order to receive access to the comfort care offered by hospice. According to CMS, this new initiative will allow beneficiaries to receive end-of-life palliative care while continuing to seek a cure.


    The CMS's Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) said that during this pilot program it will evaluate whether allowing access to both services can improve the quality of life and care received by Medicare beneficiaries as well as increase patient satisfaction and reduce Medicare expenditures.


    Donald Schumacher, who is president and chief executive officer of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, said of the initiative, “For far too long, the decision to elect hospice has been tantamount to 'giving up' as a patient must decide to forgo what is often thought of as ongoing curative care. This new CMMI project will allow Medicare to pilot the innovations that have long benefitted patients in the private market. We trust that the Medicare Care Choices Model project will demonstrate that patients who have access to hospice alongside of curative care have better outcomes, higher family caregiver satisfaction, and benefit from the expert support of hospice earlier in their care.”


    Applications for hospice providers interested in participating in the program are not due until June 19, 2014, therefore it will take some time before the program is operative.


    I’m thrilled to see this effort. Many patients and/or families feel that by accepting hospice care they are giving up hope of obtaining a cure. While in reality many people do improve and go off of hospice even without curative care, it’s true that the main focus of hospice has always been to support people as they die pain free and with dignity.


    This pilot program, if it becomes a permanent part of Medicare, will end the debate for many of those who have trouble deciding whether or not to ask for palliative care. If patients can be kept comfortable as well as continue to strive for a cure, I would expect that many more people will ask for hospice services.


    For more information about Carol visit  www.mindingourelders.com or www.mindingoureldersblogs.com.

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    CMS.gov. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (2014, March 18) Medicare Care Choices Model. Retrieved from http://innovation.cms.gov/initiatives/Medicare-Care-Choices/

    Weixel, N. (2014, March 19)  Bloomberg BNA. Posted by Schneider, G. (2014, March 26) CMS Launches Initiative to Give Hospice Patients Options in Care Type. Retrieved from http://hospicevolunteerassociation.ning.com/forum/topics/cms-launches-initiative-to-give-hospice-patients-options-in-care-?groupUrl=regulatorymedicare&xg_source=msg_mes_network

Published On: April 03, 2014