Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Latest News on Hospice & Health Care Reform

As Congress prepares to depart Washington for the July 4th District Work Period, health care reform activities refuse to wind down. Higher than expected cost estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) sent Washington into a flurry of activity over the past few weeks, as stakeholders try to rein in the price tag associated with the reform effort. Here’s what’s been going on:

The President
President Obama continues to reiterate his two goals for the overhaul – reducing overall health care costs and covering the uninsured. At the same time, the President has demanded that larger members of the health sector come up with their own savings to pay for the plan, and the pharmaceutical industry responded this week with $80 billion over 10 years.

Senate Activity
The mark-up of the proposal drafted by the Senate Finance Committee, the committee which was previously out in front on health care reform, has stalled due to the lack of a bipartisan consensus. Chairman Max Baucus and the committee staff continue to work around the clock to refine their bill to gain support on both sides of the aisle.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee was been holding a week-long marathon of a mark-up on its proposal. NHPCO has been asked by Committee staff to comment on proposed amendments that would expand efforts to increase utilization of Advance Directives. This mark-up is expected to continue through the week, and may need to reconvene after next week’s District Work Period.

House Activity
Late last week, the committees of jurisdiction in the House of Representatives released a nearly 900-page draft of the House health care reform proposal. Buried in that draft document is a reduction in the productivity factor, which amounts to an across-the-board rate reduction for all Medicare providers. This is an early draft of one Chamber’s proposal, and we don’t know whether it will come out in the final package. We are still combing through the hefty document to determine if there are other provisions that might impact hospice.
The Ways & Means Committee continues its hearings on health care reform this week, and is expected to begin mark-up of the proposal after the District Work Period. The Energy & Commerce Committee heard testimony from Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius this week and also continues hearings on health care reform.

NHPCO
ABC News hosted a Healthcare Reform Town Hall Meeting on June 24, at the White House. The program was moderated by Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson and featured a cross section of Americans asking President Obama questions about healthcare issues as they relate to their personal needs. NHPCO provided information on end-of-life care to ABC News producers, and helped the news team covering this town hall meeting to find additional professional contacts in the field.
NHPCO and the Alliance for Care at the End of Life continue to be in contact with the key Committees of jurisdiction, and try to advance end-of-life care proposals that would pave the pave the way for modernizing the Medicare Hospice Benefit in the future. Check out of the proposals endorsed by NHPCO in recent weeks.
Please stay tuned for future health care reform updates. The President continues to push for passage of bill by the end of the summer and the coming weeks will be full of activity as the various Committees of jurisdiction try to meld their proposals together and pass their bills.

New Health Care Reform Resource Center
Please visit the new Hospice & Health Care Reform Resource Center. There, you can find our current and past updates on health care reform activities. You’ll also find what we are sending to the Hill on hospice and health care reform, and many other valuable resources.
Providers with questions may contact NHPCO's Public Policy Team at advocacy@nhpco.org.

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For more information visit, http://www.nhpco.org