Hospice Care and the Affordable Care Act [Obamacare]
by Dan Kohl
How Will The Affordable Care Act Affect Hospice Care?
Last week was a big one for healthcare policy in the United States. The Supreme Court ruling upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was considered a political victory for President Obama. So what does the ruling mean for patients and families utilizing the Hospice benefit?
Here’s a quick summary:
- Hospices will be required to begin collecting consistent quality data and reporting on it in 2014. Most hospices are tracking some quality measures now and the introduction of a consistent approach will be beneficial to patients, families, and hospices seeking to improve care.
- Currently when a patient is admitted to hospice, the hospice organization must obtain certification from a physician that the patient is terminally ill and has a life expectancy of less than six months. Under PPACA, hospice organizations are required to obtain re-certification by a hospice physician or nurse practitioner prior to the patient’s 180th day on service and in each subsequent service period. This process has been in place for some time and, while it is an added cost burden, it does help keep the focus on length of stay.
- After October 2013, reforms to the payment methodology for hospices will be considered. Utilizing data, consideration will be given to the rates currently in place and whether the structure of those rates will need to be adjusted. The changes are to be budget neutral…but, we’ll see what they look like as the deadline approaches.
I don’t believe there are simple answers to the challenge of reducing healthcare costs in the United States. I do believe that focusing on those programs that offer the opportunity to provide high quality care at the lowest price should continue to be invested in….particularly hospice and home health.
Hospice organizations have always been committed to providing high quality service in a caring and compassionate way to patients with a life limiting illness. The PPACA will not change that. Supporting patients and their families during the most difficult moments of their lives and doing it cost effectively is what drives most hospices. Provided that the changes ahead focus on quality and excellence…balanced with an eye toward cost…patients will continue to benefit.