The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) today commended the introduction of the bi-cameral, bi-partisan Rural Access to Hospice Act (S. 1190/H.R. 2594) by Senator Shelley Moore-Capito (R-WV), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-IN).
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 will allow RHCs and FQHCs to receive payment for hospice services while acting as attending physicians 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.
In press releases posted yesterday, Rep. Kind and Congresswoman Walorski commented on how this bill will increase access to hospice in their home districts and in rural communities across the country.
“As Wisconsin seniors and families make end of life care decisions, the last thing they need to focus on is finding a new care provider for their loved one. The Rural Access to Hospice Act will ensure Wisconsin families can keep their local, trusted care provider and give them a little more peace of mind in a trying time,” said Rep. Ron Kind.
“For Americans in rural communities and other underserved areas, Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Centers play a critical role in providing access to affordable, quality health care,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “These patients shouldn’t lose the doctor they know and trust when they enter hospice care simply because of where they live. The bipartisan Rural Access to Hospice Act will fix a technical glitch to ensure seniors can access hospice care and choose their own doctor as the attending physician.”
“We support expanded patient access to high-quality, person-centered hospice care including greater access for rural and urban families in medically underserved areas,” stated NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach. “This statutory oversight has kept too many patients from choosing hospice care for fear of losing their preferred attending physician. Congress should be working to allow access to hospice care, one of the premier value-based models of care, and this legislation is a step in the right direction.”
NHPCO is now asking other Members of Congress to support this legislation to ensure more Americans have access to high-quality hospice care.