Photo L to R: Congressional Briefing panelists, Edo Banach, Judi Lund Person, Greg Wood, and Angela Sells.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) held a briefing on Capitol Hill on March 26, 2019, to educate lawmakers about the value of the Medicare Hospice Benefit, address concerns with the current design of the Medicare Hospice Benefit and discuss NHPCO’s vision for future policy reforms.
The briefing featured three panelists who provided attendees with key insights into hospice, the origins of this philosophy of care and its impact on millions of Americans each year. The Medicare Hospice Benefit, which provides holistic and comprehensive care to patients at the end of life, now faces a growing list of opportunities and challenges stemming from demographic transitions and a shifting healthcare landscape.
“Hospice is an important but often underutilized service covered under Medicare. Our goal today is to reiterate the importance of strengthening the Medicare Hospice Benefit and ensuring that Americans continue to have access to quality serious illness and end-of-life care,” said Edo Banach, the President and CEO of NHPCO, who also moderated today’s program.
Judi Lund Person, Regulatory and Compliance Vice President at NHPCO who advocated for the initial passage of the Medicare Hospice Benefit in 1982, detailed how the benefit has evolved over the last 37 years, including how the benefit is paid for and regulated.
“Healthcare trends towards coordinated and value-based care really started with hospice,” said Person. “The Medicare Hospice Benefit was the first care system in the country to offer a comprehensive and integrated approach to person and family-centered care.”
Greg Wood, Chairman of the Board of Directors for NHPCO and the Executive Director of Hospice of the Ozarks in Baxter County, AR, also emphasized that many patients and families he and his team have served did not fully grasp the depth of service provided by hospice before enrolling in hospice care.
“Key to hospice care is a patient’s interdisciplinary team that cares for the physical, emotional, spiritual and psycho-social needs of a patient in addition to addressing their pain and symptom management,” said Wood. “Sadly, the most common statement we hear in our satisfaction surveys is that families wish they had engaged the help and support of hospice sooner.”
Access to hospice care remains a challenge for many rural communities, according to the final panelist, Angela Sells. As Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations with AseraCare Hospice & Palliative Care and Chair of NHPCO’s advocacy affiliate, the Hospice Action Network, Sells understands how federal policy can shape hospice coverage. In addition to advocating for the reintroduction of the Rural Access to Hospice Act Sells emphasized the need for a larger hospice and palliative workforce to meet a growing demand for hospice care.
“In less than twenty years, older Americans are projected to outnumber children and young adults for the first time in our country’s history,” said Sells. “While this presents us with an unprecedented challenge, legislative improvements, like the Palliative Care and Hospice Education Training Act (PCHETA), will help ensure that the hospice community is well-positioned to meet the growing demand for high-quality, patient-centered care.”
At the end of the briefing, those who were interested in learning still more about hospice care were directed to a recently published research review, Hospice: Leading Interdisciplinary Care.