Effective August 26, 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services require that a long-term care, or LTC, facility that chooses to arrange for the provision of hospice services through a Medicare-certified hospice must have a signed agreement with the hospice delineating the services that will be provided by each.

New Condition of Participation Requirement for Long-Term Care Facilities

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has added a new Condition of Participation (CoP) that requires that long-term care (LTC) facilities (that is, Medicare-certified skilled nursing and Medicaid-certified nursing facilities) that choose to arrange for the provision of hospice services through a Medicare-certified hospice must have in place a written agreement delineating the respective roles and responsibilities of each.  The CoP requires that the agreement, signed by an authorized official of the LTC facility and the hospice, must be in place before any hospice services can be provided through the arrangement by the hospice.  The new CoP requirement is effective August 26, 2013.

In its description of the requirement, published in the June 27, 2013, Federal Register, CMS explains that where LTC facilities and hospices provide many of the same services to residents who have elected the hospice benefit, the purpose of the agreement is to ensure that duplicative or conflicting services are not provided to the resident as part of the hospice benefit, and that there will be no missing hospice services.  CMS believes that the written clarification of the responsibilities of the LTC facility and the hospice will increase coordination of care for patients as well as foster communication between the two providers assisting patients and their families.  CMS also believes that the clear division of responsibilities and increased communication required by this new rule will help address the duplication of services criticized by the Office of Inspector General in a July 2011 report, and address situations where neither the LTC facility nor the hospice are providing a needed hospice service. 

Options and New Requirement

An LTC facility has two options under the newly added CoP: it may arrange for the provision of hospice services through a written agreement with a Medicare-certified hospice specifying the services to be provided by the LTC facility and the hospice, or it may assist the resident in transferring to a facility that will arrange for the provision of hospice services when a resident requests a transfer. 

If the hospice care is furnished in an LTC facility through an agreement with a Medicare-certified hospice, the agreement must ensure, among other things, that the hospice services meet professional standards and principles that apply to individuals providing services in the facility and to the timeliness of the services.  The regulations prescribe what must be addressed in the agreement.  For example, the agreement would specify that it is the LTC facility’s responsibility to furnish 24-hour room and board care, meet the resident’s personal care and nursing needs in coordination with the hospice representative, and ensure that the level of care provided is appropriately based on the resident’s needs.  The hospice’s responsibilities are delineated to include providing medical direction and management of the patient, nursing, counseling (including spiritual, dietary and bereavement), social work and medical supplies and drugs necessary for palliative care associated with the terminal illness.  The final regulation and CMS’ commentary published in the Federal Register provide considerable guidance to providers in developing new agreements, or amending existing agreements with hospices, to address the new requirement. 

LTC facilities choosing to provide hospice services through arrangements with hospices without the required written agreement can face sanctions for their failure to meet the requirement of this new CoP.  While one commenter suggested extending the deadline for implementation of the rule to allow hospices and LTC facilities more time to develop agreements, CMS believes that the August 26, 2013, effective date is an adequate timeframe.