Two Care Dimensions clinical directors joined 260 other hospice supporters from across the nation on Wednesday in Capitol Hill meetings that stressed preserving timely access to high quality hospice care for patients and their families.
The meetings with congressional policy advisors wrapped up three days of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s annual Management and Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, and coincided with the launch of the Hospice Action Network’s My Hospice campaign, which seeks to reinforce the value of the Medicare hospice benefit among policy and health care decision makers.
Florence Exantus, RN, MA, CHPN, and Matthew Smith, BSN, RN, CHPN, shared stories of their hospice care experience to illustrate the importance of congressional support for the Medicare hospice benefit and for four bills:
- Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act (H.R. 5041) would grant hospice organizations the legal authority to safely dispose of unused prescription drugs (like opioids) after a patient’s death.
- The Patient Choice and Quality Care Act (S. 1334/H.R. 2797) would ensure that patients with advanced and life-limiting illnesses have access to information they need to make health care decisions. The bill also would strengthen advance directive portability between states.
- The Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (S. 693/H.R. 1676) would help address the shortage of adequately trained hospice or palliative care providers. Hospice and palliative care physicians would train teams of interdisciplinary health care professionals in hospice and palliative care techniques.
- The Rural Access to Hospice Act (H.R. 1828) would correct a glitch in the current law that prohibits Rural and Federally Qualified Health Clinicians from serving as their patients’ hospice attending physician. In rural areas, this is a significant barrier to hospice care.
Exantus and Smith joined five other hospice supporters in meetings with aides to Massachusetts’ senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren. The advocates split into smaller groups for meetings with staffers for House members representing Massachusetts. Exantus and Smith met with aides to Reps. Seth Moulton, Niki Tsongas, and Richard Neal.
“It is so important to have a unified message when speaking to people who advise members of Congress, and our group from Massachusetts told the hospice story well by drawing on our experiences from the front lines of end-of-life care,” said Exantus, who attended the hospice advocacy day for the second consecutive year. “Every day, we see how hospice improves quality of life for patients and families during the most difficult times of their lives.”
“We met some staffers who had had a family member receive hospice care, and they immediately could relate to its importance,” said Smith. “As a first-timer advocating hospice on the Hill, I was encouraged by their positive feedback. We got to reinforce that hospice is an integrated care program that works. It provides a comprehensive, patient-centric approach to health care and it saves Medicare money by reducing hospital re-admissions and expensive procedures that do not enhance quality of life.”
What does hospice mean to you? Share your story in the comments, below, to be considered for inclusion in a collection of hospice stories for our 40th anniversary.
Contact your members of Congress and express your support for the hospice-related bills detailed above.