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Medicare to test change in how it pays for hospice care

Patients would be able to receive both curative and palliative treatment

Medicare will test a program that changes how it pays for hospice treatment, for the first time allowing patients to receive both curative and palliative treatment, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced.

Under the current payment system, Medicare patients in hospice cannot receive care intended to cure their condition while at the same time receiving traditional hospice services. This may be the reason why a little less than half of Medicare beneficiaries opt for hospice care, CMS notes.

Still, the number of patients who choose hospice care has been on the rise since 2009, reducing hospital use but also costing Medicare more, FierceHealthPayer has reported. CMS estimates that a policy change to reflect the new model would either reduce overall costs or cost the same as the current policy, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell told the Wall Street Journal.

"We want to do what we can to help families find the care that is right for their loved one," she said in the CMS announcement.

CMS will test the new model at more than 140 Medicare-certified hospices for five years and will pay a per beneficiary, per month fee ranging from $200 to $400 to participating hospices, the agency said.

Though this is the first time a government payer is trying out a hospice model that blends palliative and curative care, the concept is not new to private insurers. Aetna offers hospice patients a similar care model in part due to CEO Mark Bertolini's experience with his son's battle with cancer.

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- here's the WSJ article

Related Articles:
Hospice care drives up Medicare costs
4 reasons hospice, palliative care gaining momentum
How personal healthcare experiences shaped Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini's career