On Wednesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced the Compassionate Care Act, a bill that would support advance care planning and end-of-life care.
For home health providers with existing hospice service lines or ambitions for expanding into palliative care, the news is encouraging. If passed, the Compassionate Care Act places more resources behind public awareness campaigns for these services.
Specifically, the legislation would throw federal support behind a public education campaign that promotes the importance of advance care planning, something that often goes overlooked. This would include grants and pilot initiatives aimed at educating medical, nursing and social work students.
Additionally, the Compassionate Care Act focuses on the development of end-of-life quality measures and expanding access to advance care planning through telehealth.
“This bill will help Americans have the difficult but necessary conversations about end-of-life care,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded Americans of all ages of the importance to have a plan in place in case of severe illness or death. By promoting end-of-life care through public awareness, expanding telehealth services and working with physicians, we can ensure that not one more person is robbed of making critical life or death decisions for themselves during this pandemic and beyond.”
If enacted, the Compassionate Care Act would also, among other things, establish guidelines for advance care planning and develop continuing education criteria for health care providers in the arena. It would further allow physicians to recertify hospice stays through telehealth, which could reduce paperwork and administrative burdens.
It’s become increasingly common for home health providers — with hospice, palliative care and other services in place — to function as an almost one-stop-shop for aging services.
Companies such as LHC Group Inc. (Nasdaq: LHCG), Amedisys Inc. (Nasdaq: AMED), Addus HomeCare Corporation (Nasdaq: ADUS) and several others have viewed hospice care as part of a larger strategy to encompass multiple care capabilities.
On the palliative care front, reimbursement remains a challenge, however.
So far, the legislation has garnered support from a number of health care advocacy organizations including LeadingAge, the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC), National Partnership for Healthcare & Hospice Innovation (NPHI), the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) and the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC).
“Consumer awareness of the importance of advance care planning, as well as an understanding of the array of care options at the end of life, is critical, a truth we have only seen magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, said in a statement, “This important legislation provides much-needed resources to develop educational programs, initiatives and strategies for both consumers and providers that will ensure greater access to and understanding of advance care planning and end-of-life care.”
In addition to her role at LeadingAge, Sloan also serves as acting president and CEO of Visiting Nurse Associations of America and ElevatingHOME.