Cuts Beginning October 1 Will Reduce Access to Care for Dying Americans
(Alexandria, VA) – Today, 3,524 hospice providers from across the country sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to stop cuts to the Medicare hospice benefit beginning on October 1, 2009.
The cuts threaten to jeopardize availability of the compassionate and high-quality care that 1.5 million patients and their family caregivers receive from hospice providers each year.
In addition to the letter, more than 500 providers of the hospice community submitted comments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on how the cuts will cause them to decrease services, reduce staffing, and in some cases, close their programs.
This follows two Congressional letters sent to President Obama by 45 U.S. Senators and 171 U.S. Representatives, demonstrating that he has strong, bipartisan support to stop the cuts in hospice funding.
The cuts come from a 2008 federal rule that eliminates a component of the Medicare hospice benefit known as the budget neutrality adjustment factor (BNAF). Members of the hospice community have been calling and emailing the Administration requesting that implementation of this rule be stopped.
“The sheer number of hospice programs represented by this letter and those recently sent by Members of Congress should send a strong message to the White House about the urgency in stopping these cuts,” said J. Donald Schumacher, president and CEO of NHPCO.
Earlier this year, President Obama and Congress approved a moratorium on the hospice funding cuts that expires on September 30, 2009. Without further action, hospice reimbursements will drop by 3.1 percent, leaving hospice programs, particularly smaller and rural ones, facing cutbacks in services and possible closure.
Hospice is a proven Medicare cost saver. In 2007, an independent, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded study by Duke University found that hospice reduced Medicare costs by $2,300 per patient, saving more than $2 billion per year.
Hospice is also considered to be the model of high-quality care at the end of life. Research from NHPCO shows that 98 percent of families served by hospice are willing to recommend its care and services to others.
For more information about NHPCO’s efforts to protect hospice funding, please visit NHPCO’s Advocacy Web page at: nhpco.org/advocacy.