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One of the new quality measures would assess hospice staff visits to patients and caregivers in the last week of life. It would measure the percentage of patients receiving at least one visit from a nurse, doctor, nurse practitioner or physicians assistant in the last three days of life. It would also assess the percentage of patients receiving at least two visits from medical social workers, spiritual counselors, licensed practical nurses or hospital aides during the same period.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization applauded the focus on quality measures in a statement Thursday, saying it's supported such measures for years.

Collecting such information “will encourage hospices to visit patients and caregivers and provide services that will address their care needs and improve quality of life during the patients' last days of life,” according to the proposed rule.

The second new measure would assess the percentage of hospice patients who received care consistent with guidelines.

The CMS also said in the proposed rule that it expects to begin publicly reporting quality measures and other hospice data by the middle of 2017.

Nearly 1.4 million Medicare beneficiaries received hospice services at a cost of $15.5 billion to the government program in 2015, according to the proposed rule.

Medicare spending on hospices is projected to continue to grow by about 7% a year because of an increasing number of beneficiaries, growing awareness of the Medicare hospice benefit for end-of-life care, and an increasing preference for care provided in home and community-based settings, according to the proposed rule.

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