A bipartisan bill, H.R. 647, which focuses on expanding the interdisciplinary palliative care workforce and increasing awareness and promoting education and research among patients and providers was introduced in the House of Representatives on January 29, 2019.
Sponsored by Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY), Tom Reed (R-NY), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Buddy Carter (R-GA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Greg Walden (R-OR) and 25 co-sponsors the bill is similar to the Palliative Care and Hospice Education Training Act (PCHETA) that passed the House with broad support last year.
A significant first step to protecting access to holistic palliative and hospice care for all Americans, H.R. 647 would expand palliative care education programs, promote research in palliative and hospice care, and support academic palliative medicine. Without the intervention and support this bill provides, it is projected by the George Washington University Healthcare Institute that there will be only one palliative care physician for every 26,000 seriously ill patients by the year 2030.
“Increasing the number of palliative and hospice care professionals is essential to ensuring that all Americans are able to access patient-centered and integrated care,” said Edo Banach, president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “Unless efforts are made to expand our palliative care workforce, services for individuals facing serious, advanced or life-limiting illness may become limited. We’re calling on all Congressional leaders to rise to meet this challenge and support this important legislation.”
Hospice and palliative care are both patient-centered models of care that address patients’ physical, emotional, psychosocial, spiritual and familial needs. Both hospice and palliative care utilize inter-disciplinary teams of providers who optimize quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering.
In a 2010 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, patients that received palliative care early after diagnosis had a better quality of life, experienced less frequent depression, and lived longer than their counterparts who did not receive palliative care. (Learn more about this study in this article from The New York Times.)