The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization commended the recent announcement that bipartisan lawmakers in the House Ways & Means Committee have created the Rural and Underserved Communities Task Force to address challenges in the delivery of care to populations residing in rural and underserved areas. Further, the Task Force will explore bipartisan policy options to improve outcomes and care in these communities.
NHPCO stands ready to work with the new Task Force to advance policy solutions and address restricted access to hospice services in rural and underserved areas when the group convenes to consider care inequality in these communities.
“The launch of this Task Force is an exciting opportunity to work collaboratively with lawmakers on access issues impacting rural and underserved populations – that are of particular importance to the hospice provider community,“ noted Edo Banach, NHPCO President and CEO. “Specifically, passing the Rural Access to Hospice Act is a bipartisan solution in line with the stated goals of this Task Force. Americans in both rural and underserved areas value and deserve high-quality, person-centered hospice care as much as anyone else, without additional hurdles to overcome in order to access care at the end of life.”
Currently, a statutory barrier restricts access to hospice in rural communities across the country. When a Medicare beneficiary becomes eligible for hospice, they select a physician or nurse practitioner to serve as their attending physician. Unfortunately, providers working in Rural Health Centers (RHC) and Federal Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) cannot bill and be paid for hospice attending physician services. This statutory barrier restricts choice for some of the most underserved populations by not allowing patients to choose the RHC or FQHC provider they know and trust to serve as their attending during hospice care.
The Rural Access to Hospice Act (H.R. 2594/S.1190) has bipartisan support and would allow RHCs and FQHCs to receive payment for hospice services while acting as the attending physician for their patients. This would allow RHCs and FQHCs to bill and be paid for hospice attending physician services the same way they are currently paid for other services they provide.
The legislation is led by Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI-3) and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R- IN-2) in the House and Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in the Senate.
NHPCO encourages the Rural and Underserved Communities Task Force to support this effort to ensure more rural and underserved Americans have access to high-quality hospice care.