On May 8, 2014, CMS published its proposed rule to update the Medicare hospice wage index for FY 2015 and make other payment and policy changes. CMS estimates that hospice payments would increase by 1.3% ($230 million) in FY 2015 compared to FY 2014. Specifically, CMS would update the hospice per diem rates by 2.0% (reflecting a 2.7% market basket increase that is reduced by 0.7 percentage points under ACA adjustments), but this update is partially offset by a 0.7 percentage point cut resulting from the use of updated wage data and CMS’s continued phase-out of its wage index budget neutrality adjustment factor. Hospices that fail to report quality data will have their market basket update reduced by 2 percentage points.

The proposed rule includes a number of policy provisions. For instance, CMS is proposing to require hospices to file a beneficiary Notice of Election (NOE) within three calendar days after the effective date of hospice election; if an NOE is not filed timely, the days from the effective date of election to the date of filing the NOE would be the financial responsibility of the hospice. Likewise, CMS is proposing to require hospices to file a notice of termination/revocation within three calendar days of a beneficiary’s discharge or revocation, unless the hospice has already filed a final claim. The rule also would, among other things: require the hospice to identify the attending physician on the election form; revise the applicability of quality reporting penalties to new hospices; provide that claims will be returned to providers if the claim lists a nonspecific symptom diagnosis as the principal hospice diagnosis; and require hospices to complete their hospice cap determinations within 150 days after the cap period and remit any overpayments at that time.

CMS also is soliciting comments on several policy issues, including definitions of “terminal illness” and “related conditions” that are intended to “strengthen and clarify the current concepts of holistic and comprehensive hospice care under the Medicare hospice benefit.” CMS also seeks comments on processes that Part D drug plan sponsors could use to coordinate with Medicare hospices in determining coverage of drugs for hospice beneficiaries and resolving disagreements between the parties. Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted until July 1, 2014.