On December 8, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Helping Our Senior Population in Comfort Environments” Act or the “HOSPICE” Act (H.R. 5821) sponsored by Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20) and Tom Reed (R-NY-23). The text of the HOSPICE Act was added to the text of H.R. 2477, the BENES Act. This legislation follows OIG reports released in July 2019 that outlined deficiencies with CMS monitoring of hospice and examples of poor care.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization thanks Representatives Panetta and Reed and the House Ways and Means Committee for their leadership and commitment to improving hospice care provided to Medicare beneficiaries at the end of life.
NHPCO has strongly stated that the survey process is flawed and needs to be overhauled. The HOSPICE Act incorporates NHPCO recommendations for improving the survey process by including increased surveyor training and competency. Proper training will not only benefit the surveyors in their work but has the potential for improving the survey process.
NHPCO does not support increasing survey frequency to every two years for all hospice providers, nor the inclusion of Civil Monetary Penalties.
“NHPCO supports smart oversight when it does not hinder access to high-quality care for patients and their families,” said NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach. “Hospice providers that are following the rules should not be subjected to excessive administrative burden and forced to needlessly divert resources from patient care.”
NHPCO will continue to work with lawmakers to improve quality and access to hospice care, especially for beneficiaries in rural and underserved populations. To that end, NHPCO encourages Congress to pass the Rural Access to Hospice Act of 2019 (H.R. 2594/S.1190), bipartisan legislation introduced by Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI-3) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN-2) and Senators Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) that will allow hospice beneficiaries to be served by clinicians in their Rural Health Clinic or Federally Qualified Health Center.
NHPCO looks forward to continued work with the Committee to help further their understanding of the intersection of high-quality hospice care and program integrity. Now that the legislation has passed the House it may be considered by the Senate. Further refinement of the proposals is needed; NHPCO and the Hospice Action Network will be working with the Senate on making some further changes to this legislation.
“It has been NHPCO’s long standing position that if a hospice does not provide high-quality care, they should find another line of work,” said Banach.
As part of NHPCO’s ongoing efforts to advance quality of care and provider excellence, it will launch its new Quality Connections program in January 2021. The program, already in beta-testing, is built upon four pillars that address continuing quality improvement throughout an organization.
To stay up-to-date with the latest in hospice and palliative care legislative news, visit the Hospice Action Network’s Legislative Action Center.