Terminally ill patients no longer will have to give up curative treatment to receive Medicare-paid hospice care, under a limited new program the CMS will start testing with 140 hospice providers as early as January. The Medicare Care Choices Model, established by the Affordable Care Act, waives the requirement that terminally ill patients must end curative treatment such as chemotherapy to qualify for Medicare hospice coverage. The model, which will run through 2020, will test whether the expanded benefits will convince more patients to enter hospice and whether it improves care, enhances patient satisfaction, and reduces costs. Under the Medicare Care Choices Model, patients can continue to receive curative services such as physical therapy, prescriptions, medical equipment, physician services, and short-term hospital visits for pain or symptom management. Instead of getting a per diem payment, hospices will receive a Medicare monthly payment of $200 to $400 per patient for any hospice care that patients need. Meanwhile, other providers will continue to be able to bill Medicare for curative services. The program will launch in two phases with the first hospices entering in January and a second wave to begin in January 2018.
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