“Medicare coverage of hospice depends on a physician’s certification that an individual’s prognosis is a life expectancy of six months or less if the terminal illness runs its normal course.”
This is the criteria set by Medicare for admitting a patient into hospice. CMS provides several documents that provide guidelines for determining if patients qualify based on their clinical situation and this definition. These documents state that this is an inexact science and that it is understood that some patients will last longer and that some clinical issues and indicators are much harder to use for predictions than others. For example, weight loss is a very good indicator, loss of cognitive function is not. These documents also describe how patients can be discharged by a hospice if the clinical data changes to the point where their remaining lifetime is expected to exceed this six month guideline.