Wednesday, June 27, 2012

ACA, Supreme Court, Politics and Hospice

I love prognostication as a research topic and a clinical skill, and I have been thinking a lot about the future for hospice as it relates to the impending decision by SCOTUS on the Affordable Care Act.  Most people in hospice are aware of the new Medicare rule for Face to Face (F2F) visits that started in January 2011 for patients on service beyond the second benefit period (usually 180 days.)  Many of you would be surprised to know the new rule was part of the Affordable Care Act.  So one thought crossed my mind as I heard talking heads drone on about the decision: If ACA is struck down in its entirety will the Face to Face provision go away?

If the ACA is deemed unconstitutional as a whole, F2F may disappear for a while, but my guess is F2F would likely come back in some form as a reasonable check on long stay patients on the Medicare Hospice Benefit.  While F2F did provide a significant administrative and labor workload without any reimbursement, in one way I have come to really appreciate the F2F requirement.  In getting doctors and nurse practitioners out in the field with the rest of the team, I have witnessed a better approach to patient care with the actual experience of seeing a patient beyond the chart information.  Yes the F2F can trip up clinicians and organizations if you are not familiar with the guidelines but I believe most hospice organizations have managed to adopt to this task without significant problems.

The ACA has other changes in store for hospice as well, most notably the October 1, 2013 deadline for CMS to revise the methodology for hospice payments.  The plan is for a potential cost savings to the government of $100 million through 2019.  And if you are not particularly gifted with budget and finance, that cost savings is made up by reduced payment to hospices for providing the same services.

All this makes it critical that we as a block of clinicians prepare for the upcoming election, because if past results are any indication, end of life care may likely be a talking point. So you should know your talking points, demonstrate the evidence for your quality care, and collect stories that reflect your mission.  In addition, reach out to your organizational leadership, and our professional organizations (AAHPM, NHPCO, HPNA, etc.) to see what opportunities exist for becoming a strong chorus for high quality, sustainable, ethical, compassionate hospice and palliative care.

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