Hospice Community Encourages All Americans Who Value Compassionate Care for the Dying to Speak Out Against Hospice Rate Cuts

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 General News
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ALEXANDRIA, Va., July 29 National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization is asking all Americans who understand the importance of hospice care for dying individuals and family caregivers to contact President Bush and ask him to stop the issuance of the regulation that will cut hospice rates under Medicare.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has issued a proposed rule scheduled to go into effect on Friday, August 1, 2008 that would significantly impact hospice reimbursement in a devastating way. The proposed rule involves phasing out an annual adjustment that is applied to the hospice wage index.

Cutting the reimbursement levels essentially translates into less care to patients and caregivers during the end of life reports NHPCO.

"It's important that we explain why compassionate end-of-life care should not be put in jeopardy by a significant cut in rates," remarked Jonathan Keyserling, NHPCO vice president for public policy. "Research has shown that hospice saves the Medicare system money, is highly rated by family members, and enables the patient to die at home in most cases. I don't understand the logic behind this action at this time."

NHPCO suggests two methods to voice your support for hospice:

1. Call the White House Telephone Comment Line at 202-456-1111.

2. Visit the NHPCO Advocacy Center online where you can send a message to the White House; go to www.nhpco.org homepage and click on the link for "Become a Hospice Advocate."

Key Talking Points:

-- On August 1, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is expected to issue a final rule on CMS-1548, which would cut Medicare reimbursement rates for the compassionate end-of-life care provided by hospices.

-- According to MedPAC, the hospice community already experiences very low margins, around 3.4 percent; hospice providers cannot afford rate reductions.

-- Unlike other health care sectors, hospice goes to where patients live, so hospice professionals and volunteers are already suffering the economic impact of high gas prices.

-- Ask that President Bush to halt any further action on the regulation.

"By issuing a rule, rather than going to Congress, CMS is getting around Congressional oversight and instituting what is essentially a cut in rates," Jonathan Keyserling said. "NHPCO strongly opposes this proposed rule."

NHPCO has been coordinating advocacy efforts from the hospice community and more than 40,000 messages have been sent to Congress and to officials at CMS.

Whatever your political beliefs, this is a chance for those who value hospice care for the dying to be heard," noted Keyserling.

Considered to be the model for high-quality care at the end of life, hospice involves a team-oriented approach to care that includes expert medical attention, pain-and-symptom management, and emotional and spiritual support. The quality of a person's life is emphasized, not the duration. Moreover, services and support are provided to family caregivers, in addition to the patient.

More information about hospice care is available from NHPCO's Caring Connections at www.caringinfo.org or the HelpLine at 800-658-8898.

NHPCO is the oldest and largest nonprofit membership organization representing hospice and palliative care programs and professionals in the United States. NHPCO's mission is to lead and mobilize social change for improved care at the end of life.

CONTACT: Angie Montes, Director of Public Policy, +1-703-647-5163, amontes@nhpco.org, or Jon Radulovic, Vice President of Communications, +1-703-837-3139, jradulovic@nhpco.org

SOURCE National Hospice and Palliative Ca

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