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More Data Needed Before Changing Medicare Hospice Funding, Report Finds
Date:6/13/2008

Alliance for Care at the End of Life Urges Congress to Preserve

Compassionate End-of-Life Care

WASHINGTON, June 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a new study on hospice released today, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) reported that the rapid growth of the Medicare hospice benefit was driven by increased numbers of patients using the benefit and more spending per beneficiary. According to the report, "Evaluating Medicare's Hospice Benefit," much more data -- data that has historically been uniquely lacking in hospice -- is needed to address the funding issues and to modernize Medicare's payment system for hospice.

According to MedPAC, an independent agency established to advise Congress on Medicare issues, 40 percent of Medicare decedents chose hospice care in 2005, compared to 27 percent in 2000. Medicare's payment system for hospice care has changed relatively little in the 25 years since Medicare implemented the hospice benefit.

"It is in our nation's fiscal and moral interest that hospice remains an option for all who need these unique services," said Jonathan Keyserling, executive director of the Alliance for Care at the End of Life, an affiliate of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which represents 4,000 hospices nationwide. The Alliance, like MedPAC, recognizes that changes are needed in Medicare reimbursement, since the structure of the hospice Medicare benefit has been virtually unchanged since 1983. "But before we change the benefit, let's slow down, gather the data, and let the data drive policy," said Keyserling.

The Administration announced in April a plan to slash hospice reimbursement rates. Today's MedPAC report is further spurring on the Alliance for Care at the End of Life to reiterate its call on Congress to reverse the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service's (CMS) proposal.

"Congress needs to step in and stop the Administration's Medicare p
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SOURCE Alliance for Care at the End of Life
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