Despite an unfortunate and misleading headline that appeared in Politico yesterday, “Hospice in crisis,” the article is actually a thoughtful look at what we as a provider community face in caring for people at the end of life. For those who may have seen this headline in your news tracking or social media feeds, I’m sure you were immediately concerned, as was I. However, I encourage you to read past the headline.
The article explores how demographic, competitive and public policy changes are challenging the hospice industry. The author Joanne Kenen – who NHPCO spoke with for her reporting – is not pointing an accusatory finger towards hospice, but is instead exploring the changing environment in which we must provide care. (As an aside, it should be noted that Kenen did not write the headline, that was done by editorial staff at Politico.)
A better headline would have been “Hospices Navigate Changing Environment.” Unfortunately, crisis sells and our challenges do not.
While it is true that hospices are challenged by changing demographics and patient needs, the crisis is most acutely felt by patients and their families. As providers, we know that when people wait until they are actively dying to access hospice, our patients and family caregivers are unable to fully utilize and benefit from the wide range of services that we provide. Those of you on the frontlines know this best.
Part of our job is to innovate while we continue doing what we already do so very well. NHPCO is eager to work with Congress, the Administration and other stakeholders to enact policy changes that allow patients to receive palliative care earlier, expand access to concurrent hospice care, and support the delivery of other services that improve care for individuals with serious and advanced illness near and at the end-of-life.
In fact, we are supporting legislation that our affiliate the Hospice Action Network is championing on Capitol Hill that would likely help more Americans access quality hospice care in a timelier fashion. If you are not familiar with our two major legislative priorities, the Patient Choice and Quality Care Act and the Rural Access to Hospice Act, I hope you’ll visit the links to learn more on the HAN website.
We are pleased that Kenen took the time to interview me as part of her research and I trust this conversation will be ongoing. We had a thorough conversation about the realities of caring for the dying, which we are encouraged could lead to additional reporting on the important work NHPCO is doing on behalf of the hospice community.
Thank you for your continued work towards providing high quality care to an ever increasingly complex population in an evolving health care landscape. I can attest to the amazing work I have seen firsthand from one corner of the country to the other and I am proud of the dedication, compassion and understanding I see among the hospice community to adapt to the world around us.
By Edo Banach
President and CEO