On February 10, 2020, the House of Representatives introduced 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). This legislation follows OIG reports released in July 2019 that outlined deficiencies with CMS monitoring of hospice and examples of poor care.
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization thanks Representatives Panetta and Reed and the committee for their leadership and commitment to improving hospice care provided to 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 across the board.
“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.”
“Most hospices are compassionate caregivers who are deeply concerned for their patients and families. But, there are some that can neglect and even abuse patients. This bipartisan legislation will hold those bad actors accountable, enhance the integrity of the entire hospice program, and improve the quality of care for patients in the last stages of life,” said Congressman Panetta.
“When my mother became sick, there was nothing I wouldn’t have done to cure her, but she taught me that what truly mattered to her was comfort and time spent with her family. Surrounded by a wonderful team of hospice care providers, we watched as her wishes were met. However, we must hold bad actors in the caregiver community accountable, and I am proud to co-lead this legislation to demand additional oversight and transparency of Medicare hospice providers,” said Congressman Tom Reed.
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 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. Further refinement of the proposals is needed, including the removal and replacement of civil monetary penalties.
“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.
To stay up-to-date with the latest in hospice and palliative care legislative news, visit the Hospice Action Network’s Legislative Action Center.