Legislation aimed at raising awareness and increasing the quality of hospice and palliative care is steadily finding its way through Capitol Hill.
U.S. Rep. Tom Reed (R-New York) announced on Tuesday that the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA) has made it out of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee and is now advancing to the full committee for a vote.
“I witnessed the benefits of hospice and palliative when caring for my mother, and it is an issue that strike close to my heart,” Reed, a co-sponsor, said in a statement. “This bill will ensure that our aging loved ones have access to the proper and comfortable care they deserve as they reach those crucial final days with their family.”
Originally introduced in March of last year, the legislation seeks to increase palliative care and hospice training for health care professionals and enhance research on improving the delivery of palliative care. It also seeks to launch a national campaign to better inform Americans about the benefit of palliative care.
The hospice industry saw significant growth in 2017, with about 1.2 million Medicare enrollees in total, a more than 6% jump compared to the previous year. Almost half of all hospice enrollees were over the age of 84.
The overall increase in utilization is largely linked to a spike in the number of for-profit hospices currently operating across the United States, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. For-profit hospices make up about two-thirds of the nearly 4,400 hospices in operation.
The hospice industry remains strong in 2018, too, despite concerns about fraud, waste and abuse and tighter oversight promised by federal watchdogs.
PCHETA has, thus far, secured widespread bipartisan support and more than 280 congressional backers. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) is among the bill’s supporters.
“PCHETA will help address the growing demand for person-centered, interdisciplinary care by offering training in a variety of settings, including hospice,” NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach told Home Health Care News in an email. “[NHPCO] extends deep appreciation to the many professionals and hospice advocates that supported efforts to move this legislation forward.”
Momentum for the hospice legislation is especially timely considering that Dame Cicely Saunders—the person widely recognized as the founder of the modern hospice model of care—would have celebrated her 100th birthday in June, Banach said.
“It seems fitting to celebrate how far the hospice benefit has come, and how far it can reach beyond caregiving at the very end of life,” he said.
CMS officially recognized hospice and palliative medicine as a medical subspecialty in October 2008.
As of February 2017, there were a total of 127 hospice and palliative medicine training programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.
The full text of the legislation is available here.
Written by Robert Holly