Payments to rural hospices are projected to increase $23 million in 2005

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has announced that payments to rural hospices are projected to increase $23 million in 2005, a 2.9 percent increase over 2004. For 2005 there is an overall projected increase of $60 million dollars to hospice providers, an increase of 1 percent for all hospices.

“For millions of Medicare beneficiaries and their families, reliable, high-quality hospice care means they can spend their final days in the comfort of their own homes, especially in underserved areas of the country,” Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said today. “This payment increase helps ensure that beneficiaries in rural areas have access to the quality hospice services that they need.”

Hospice care was added as a benefit under the Medicare program in 1983 and under Medicaid in 1985. In 2005, hospice services are expected to account for $6 billion in Medicare payments.

Hospice care is covered under the Medicare Hospital Insurance program and is available to all beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part A. To be eligible, their physician and the hospice medical director must certify that they are terminally ill, with six months or less to live if their illness runs its normal course. When a beneficiary elects the hospice benefit, they are accepting palliative care geared towards physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological comfort for their terminal illness instead of the curative model of care.

“As a result of improvements in how payments are calculated, Medicare payments for hospice services in rural areas will more accurately reflect costs,” said Dr. McClellan. “Thousands of beneficiaries and their families can be comforted that Medicare will help with the high costs of this care.”

Beneficiaries can receive hospice services wherever they reside, be it at home, a nursing home, a hospital, or other facility or setting where the patient resides. Once in hospice, they may also continue to have Medicare coverage for treatment of other problems not related to their terminal illness.

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