In the early morning hours of February 9, the U.S. Senate voted on a major two-year deal that sets budget caps for FYI 2018 and FY 2019. The budget package included Medicare related policies, including The Medicare Patient Access to Hospice Act (H.R.1284) sponsored by Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA).
Notably, the legislation will allow Physician Assistants to serve as the attending physician to hospice patients and perform other functions that are otherwise consistent with their scope of practice.
“We applaud the passage of this legislation and thank Senator Enzi, Senator Carper, Congresswoman Jenkins and Congressman Thompson for their support,” said Edo Banach, president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “This common sense, bipartisan legislation will go a long way to ensuring that patients can have their preferred care team at the end of life.”
The hospice community is facing a shortage of hospice attending physicians. Prior to the passage of this legislation, Medicare would only allow physicians and nurse practitioners to serve as a patient’s hospice attending physician, creating a significant challenge for both hospice providers and the patients and families they serve. The Medicare Access to Hospice Act removes this barrier.
“Hospice providers in communities across the country, especially those in rural and underserved areas, have a difficult time finding enough primary care providers to serve their patients,” said Banach. “Allowing PAs to serve as the attending physician will relieve the burden and allow for a more seamless delivery of care.”
For more information on issues impacting the hospice community or supported legislation, visit Hospice Action Network.