By way of Transmittal No. 2316 issued on October 7, 2011, CMS clarified the claims processing procedures for hospice services when a required face-to-face encounter does not timely occur. This clarification creates additional administrative burdens to hospice providers when the required face-to-face encounter does not timely occur. Note that the implementation date of the clarified procedures is January 9, 2012.
Pursuant to 42 C.F.R. § 418.20, to be eligible for the Medicare hospice benefit, a beneficiary must have Medicare Part A and must be certified as terminally ill. A Medicare hospice certification is comprised of numerous elements, including a physician’s prognosis, a physician’s narrative, and clinical information or other documentation supporting the diagnosis. Additionally, as of January 1, 2011, a hospice physician or nurse practitioner must have a face-to-face encounter with each patient prior to the start of the 180th-day recertification and each subsequent recertification in order to determine the beneficiary’s continued eligibility for the hospice benefit. The face-to-face encounter must occur prior to, but no more than 30 calendar days prior to, the third benefit period recertification.
Pursuant to Transmittal No. 2316, “If the required face-to-face encounter is not timely, the hospice would be unable to recertify the patient as being terminally ill, and the patient would cease to be eligible for the Medicare hospice benefit. In such instances, the hospice must discharge the patient from the Medicare hospice benefit because he or she is not considered terminally ill for Medicare purposes… The hospice can re-admit the patient to the Medicare hospice benefit once the required encounter occurs, provided the patient continues to meet all of the eligibility requirements and the patient (or representative) files an election statement in accordance with CMS regulations.”
Note that this position is a departure from CMS’ previous stance on the procedural requirements for processing hospice claims when hospice certification requirements are not satisfied and increases the administrative burden to hospices. Pursuant to the Medicare Benefit Policy Manual (CMS Pub. 100-02), Chapter 9, Section 20.1, if a certification of the beneficiary’s prognosis of six months or less is not obtained within the timeframes established by the regulations, “no payment is made for the days prior to the certification. Instead, payment begins with the day of certification.” CMS policy does not require that a patient be discharged and re-admitted in this instance; rather, CMS policy simply requires that the dates of service prior to the certification not be billed.
Also of note, Transmittal No. 2316 further states, “Where the only reason the patient ceases to be eligible for the Medicare hospice benefit is the hospice’s failure to meet the face-to-face requirement, we would expect the hospice to continue to care for the patient at its own expense until the required encounter occurs.”
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