U.S. hospice community applauds new legislation to promote appropriate oversight

Categories: Policy.

Legislation requiring more timely surveys of Medicare-certified hospice care programs was introduced on Friday, August 1, before the House of Representatives adjourned for the August recess.  Led by Congressmen Tom Reed (R-NY) and Mike Thompson (D-CA), the Hospice Opportunities for Supporting Patients with Integrity and Care Evaluations (HOSPICE) Act, HR 5393, is being well-received by the hospice community.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization enthusiastically supports this new legislation and applauds the work of Congressmen Reed and Thompson who are strong champions of hospice care.

The HOSPICE Act would require that hospices be surveyed no less frequently than every three years and authorizes funding for CMS to contract for the additional oversight.

“NHPCO has long called for more timely oversight from CMS and we hope this legislation will bring necessary action on the part of CMS,” said J. Donald Schumacher, NHPCO president and CEO. “Currently, hospices can go eight years or more without ever being surveyed which is far too long. More consistent surveys will help hospices and ultimately benefit the patients and families they are caring for.”

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) examined hospice survey frequency in 2007 and 2013 and found that the existing intervals and resources were inadequate.  The mandatory survey frequency in HR 5393 is consistent with the OIG recommendations.

Additionally, the new bill will make a technical correction to allow for implementation of existing law requiring CMS to conduct a medical review of hospice programs that reach to be determined threshold of patients under care for more than 180 days.  The threshold would be established by CMS.  NHPCO has supported this provision since it was originally recommended by MedPAC in 2009. 

“These are two important program integrity provision that have long-been supported by NHPCO.  The hospice community is very serious about compliance and protecting the quality of care that is promised by the Medicare Hospice Benefit,” stressed Schumacher.

This new bill builds on a provision from the HELP Hospice Act (HR 2302/S 1053) that addresses mandating hospice surveys as a critically important program integrity piece.

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