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Medicare patients have the right to decide how they'll receive end-of-life care, according to new regulations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). These include the right to participate in their treatment plan, refuse treatment, choose their own physician, and receive adequate pain relief. This mandate is part of the first update of regulations governing hospice providers since 1983.


The changes also require that patients' needs be assessed within 2 days of electing hospice care and that a comprehensive assessment occur within 5 days. Reassessments must be performed at least every 15 days from then on.


Each patient must also receive a full drug profile that evaluates issues such as the effectiveness of his drug regimen and the potential for adverse reactions and drug interactions. His treatment team must consult with an appropriate professional, such as a pharmacist, to ensure that the drug regimen meets his needs.


Currently, nearly 1 million Medicare patients receive care from more than 3,000 Medicare-approved hospices.