Whew! That Was Close! Hospice VBID Will End

Whew! That Was Close! Hospice VBID Will End

I was surprised and pleased when CMS announced it will end its hospice Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) program this year. 

I think I heard a collective "Whew!" from hospice providers across the nation.

The VBID hospice program "allowed participating Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) to include the Medicare hospice benefit in their Medicare Advantage (MA) benefits package(s)", according to CMS. 

Medicare attributes its decision to "carefully considering recent feedback about the increasing operational challenges of the Hospice Benefit Component and limited and decreasing participation among MAOs that may impact a thorough evaluation" of the program. 

In other words, companies administering the program dropped out because it didn't match the way MAOs do things. 

With hospice care, cutting benefits in one area to provide other opportunities for coverage, as is common among MAOs, apparently didn't save the MAOs enough money to motivate their continued participation. Interesting.

Medicare says "the decision to discontinue [VBID] does not indicate whether the test has met its goals," and that the VBID program "played a significant role in transforming the delivery of serious illness care in the MA program through meaningful partnerships between MAOs and hospice providers." CMS also says it "gained valuable insights into creating a seamless care continuum in the MA program for Part A and Part B services, inclusive of the Medicare hospice benefit" that will "inform collective efforts for meeting the needs of individuals with serious illnesses."

Let's hope that CMS' lessons learned through VBID inform future hospice benefit oversight that doesn't villainize well-meaning hospices providing competent, compassionate end-of-life care for beneficiaries and their families.  


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