In an announcement scheduled for Federal Register publication on May 8, CMS proposes a 1.3% increase in hospice payments for fiscal year 2015. The increase, which would amount to $230 compared to fiscal year 2014, may not look like a lot, but any increase is meaningful at a time when CMS is working hard to lower health care payments in general. In fact, the increase in hospice payments is part of the overall cost reduction effort, recognizing that hospice care is less expensive than hospital care.

The proposed rule would not change the basic concepts involved in hospice care. Qualifying hospice care would still be available for terminally ill patients electing palliative care over curative care. But CMS is requesting feedback on the definition of “terminally ill”—something more nuanced than the current standard of life expectancy of six months or less. The agency wants input on refining the definition to take into account a patient’s emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual processes.

The proposed rule also requires filing of the notice of hospice election within three days rather than the current ten days. Late filing would mean no payment for the period between the three-day due date and the actual filing date.

Interested parties have 60 days from May 8 to submit comments.