State gives initial approval for five new hospice programs

Only four were called for.

The Agency for Health Care Administration announced Monday preliminary approval of five new hospice programs across the state to launch in January 2023, one more than what health care regulators said was needed.

Health care regulators announced approval for hospice programs in Escambia, Marion, Polk, Indian River, and Palm Beach counties, choosing as providers Peoples Hospice and Palliative Care of Florida, LLC; Cornerstone Hospice & Palliative Care, Empathy Hospice LLC; Brevard HMA Hospice, LLC; and MorseLife Hospice Institute, Inc., respectively.

The decisions, which were finalized Friday but published in the Florida Administrative Register on Monday, can be challenged in state administrative court and therefore are not final.

Hospice care is provided to people who are nearing the end of life. The goal is to maximize comfort and ease treatment for underlying medical conditions causing death. Hospice services are provided by a team of health care professionals led by a physician. Medicare, Medicaid and commercial health insurance provide coverage for hospice care.

It is not clear why the state gave tentative approval to a new hospice in Indian River County where there has not been a documented need for new services. The state agency action reports, which explain in detail the various vendors’ proposed projects, were not published on Monday. The CON applications also were not available on the state website.

Hospice, nursing homes and intermediate care facilities for the developmentally disabled are regulated by the certificate of need program, often referred to as CON. There are four CON “batching cycles” annually, two for nursing homes and intermediate care facilities for the developmentally disabled and two for hospice programs.

For planning purposes, AHCA divides the state into 11 regions and determines whether there is additional need for the regulated service in each region. After the fixed need is published, interested entities are required to file what is known as a letter of intent. The letters are not binding, but must be submitted by all entities interested in providing the services. The letter of intent is followed by an official application.

The applications are competitively reviewed by health care regulators. The state makes an initial decision after the review and publishes its decisions. Those initial agency decisions can be, and often are, challenged.

State health care planners in August initially published a need in January 2023 for five new hospice programs. The need was modified downward on Aug. 17 to four. The next day the need for new hospice programs in January 2023 was lowered to three. On Aug. 31, the state published notice for four new programs.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


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