NHPCO CAPITOL HILL DAY PARTICIPANTS TO CONGRESS: PROTECT ACCESS TO COMPASSIONATE & HIGH-QUALITY END-OF-LIFE CARE
(Alexandria, Va) – More than 500 Hospice Advocates from across the country met with their U.S. Senators and Representatives yesterday, urging them to protect access to compassionate and high-quality end-of-life care for the more than 1.4 million patients and families who depend on hospice each year.
The meetings were part of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s annual Capitol Hill Day. In addition to the meetings in Washington, D.C., thousands of phone calls were made to Congressional offices by Hospice Advocates, who participated in NHPCO’s inaugural Virtual Hill Day.
Throughout their interactions with Congress, NHPCO Hill Day participants emphasized the value of hospice in their communities, provided state-level data on quality and family satisfaction with hospice services provided, and urged lawmakers to support efforts to stop cuts in Medicare hospice funding that threaten to close the doors of hospice programs around the country.
In 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a regulation that eliminates a key component of the Medicare hospice reimbursement formula known as the budget neutrality adjustment factor (BNAF). The phased funding cut threatened 3,000 hospice provider jobs this year, as well as the survival of hospice programs, especially smaller and rural ones, across the country as the cuts were phased in. While a temporary moratorium on the hospice funding cuts was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, it expires on September 30 of this year. Just this week, CMS released a proposed FY2010 Hospice Wage Index rule that would incorporate a 75 percent reduction in the BNAF, which is a 3.1 percent reduction in overall hospice reimbursement. This development underscores the urgency in rescinding the CMS rule.
NHPCO Hill Day participants specifically asked Members of Congress to sign on to a bipartisan letter to President Barack Obama and to contact the Department of Health and Human Services about rescinding the 2008 CMS hospice funding cut before it goes into effect on October 1 of this year.
“This is a critical year for the hospice community, so it was important for our advocates to send a strong message to Capitol Hill about the importance of the high-quality services provided through hospice, and the fact that hospice is a cost-saver to Medicare. If these funding cuts are allowed to go forward, they will have a devastating effect on access to high-quality and compassionate end-of-life care,” said J. Donald Schumacher, president and CEO of NHPCO.
In 2007, an independent, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded study by Duke University found that hospice reduced Medicare costs by $2,300 per patient, amounting to more than $2 billion in savings per year.
Hill Day kicks off NHPCO’s annual Management & Leadership Conference, which attracts more than 1,600 members of the hospice community from all over the nation. Two hundred additional members of the hospice community joined the Hill Day participants for a reception honoring Hospice Champions on Capitol Hill at the new U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. Later in the week, the hospice community will also hear from Nancy-Ann DeParle, Director of the White House Office of Health Care Reform, and Elizabeth Edwards when she is recognized as NHPCO’s Person of the Year.
For more information about NHPCO’s Capitol Hill Day, please visit: www.nhpco.org/advocacy.
Manager of Public Policy Communications