Monday, September 15, 2008

Medicare Hospice Protection Act of 2008

The NHPCO (National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization) has kicked it up a notch in regards to the proposed cuts to the Medicare Hospice Benefit.

Not only has NHPCO sued Medicare (CMS), but 10 bipartisan members of Congress have now proposed the Medicare Hospice Protection Act of 2008. This bill is meant to delay the phaseout (reduction) of the wage index Medicare had put forth earlier this year. The NHPCO is working with a advocacy (or lobbying) organization called the Alliance for Care at the End of Life (itself a creation of the NHPCO.) Both sites have a lot of information about the act and tools to easily write your local legislators to give support.

An excerpt from a letter from the sponsoring legislators to the White House gets to the importance of this act:

Cuts of this magnitude need to be carefully scrutinized through an open and transparent process and should not be rushed. This proposal to eliminate the current budget neutrality factor was proposed for the first time by the Administration’s FY2009 Budget. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) and CMS are just beginning to study hospice payment issues. If a final rule is issued without a better understanding of all aspects of hospice reimbursement, the Administration risks issuing a regulation that is unnecessary and overly burdensome on hospice providers and patients.
Some important things to note:
  • This legislation only delays the reduction by one year to allow for further negotiation.
  • The reduction will amount to an averaged 4.5% reduced payment to hospice agencies
  • Costs for hospice care are increasing (gas, nurse salaries, insurance premiums)
I guess Pat Roberts (R-Kan) got my email, because he is one of the sponsoring senators. So as you can see one person CAN make a difference*, so in this political season, get off your grassroots and make some noise!

Hospice Guy at Hospice Blog has two short posts about the lawsuit and the legislation, as does the Hospice Foundation of America Blog.

Quick side comment: All the press releases refer to terminally ill patients or end-of-life-care (with or without hyphens); but curiously 'death' or 'dying patients' are rarely mentioned. Maybe this is a topic for another blog post. Any readers have thoughts on this measured choice of words?

*I bet some other people contacted Sen. Roberts as well. But my letter was a really good one.

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