MedPAC Report to Congress, March 2017 Edition

While millions of people across the Northeast are digging out from a late-winter snow storm, health policy professionals are digging into the annual Medicare Payment Advisory Commission’s (MedPAC) “Report to the Congress: Medicare Payment Policy.” Released every March, this report reviews payment policy across a variety of Medicare providers, including hospice.

The hospice chapter begins with an updated snapshot of the hospice industry. According to MedPAC, 1.38 million Medicare beneficiaries (or almost 49% of Medicare decedents) received hospice care in 2015 from 4,200 hospice providers. In that year, Medicare spent $15.9 billion on hospice care, up from $15.1 billion in 2014. However, Medicare spending on hospice care constituted less than 3% of overall Medicare spending.

This year’s chapter on hospice reflects the recommendation the Commission approved in January: “The Congress should eliminate the update to the hospice payment rates for fiscal year 2018.”  Don’t get alarmed just yet. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. MedPAC has made this same recommendation to Congress for the following fiscal year since at least 2013.
  2. Congress must take action for a MedPAC recommendation to be implemented. Congress has not taken action to implement this recommendation in recent years.
  3. CMS will likely be bound by the 2015 Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), which mandated that the hospice payment update for FY 18 is limited to 1 percent, as we have reported in the past.
  4. Additional information about FY 2018 rates will be made available when CMS issues its annual hospice wage index update later this spring.

And you may remember that Congress has been rather busy lately. While Congress will certainly review the MedPAC report, they have many other priorities to address in the immediate future. HAN will continue to monitor any possible Congressional action based on MedPAC’s recommendation. If there are any developments, you can be sure to find updates on this blog!

 

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