CMS has released a final rule that updates the Medicare hospice wage index, payment rates, and cap amount for fiscal year (FY) 2017. CMS estimates that the final rule will increase overall Medicare payments to hospices by 2.1%, or $350 million, in FY 2017. This increase reflects a 2.7% market basket update, which will be reduced by a 0.3 percentage point productivity adjustment and an additional 0.3 percentage point adjustment required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Hospices that do not meet quality reporting requirements will receive a 2.0 percentage point reduction to their payment update. The final hospice cap amount for 2017 is $28,404.99, compared to the 2016 cap amount of $27,820.75.

The final rule makes changes to the hospice quality reporting program, including adding two new quality measures (Hospice Visits When Death is Imminent, and Hospice and Palliative Care Composite Process Measure). CMS also discusses comments it received regarding its plans to enhance the current Hospice Item Set data collection instrument with a comprehensive hospice patient assessment (CMS is not proposing a hospice patient assessment tool at this time).

In addition, CMS discusses plans to begin public reporting of hospital quality performance on a new “Hospice Compare” web site beginning in the spring/summer of 2017, which “in time” will feature a quality rating system that will give each hospice a rating of between 1 and 5 stars. Furthermore, CMS reminds the public about a previously-announced Medicare Care Choices Model that allows Medicare and dual eligible beneficiaries with certain medical conditions to receive palliative care services from selected hospice providers without forgoing curative care services.

The final rule is scheduled to be published on August 5, 2016.