It goes without saying one can’t put a price on the last months, weeks and days of a life shared with a loved one. But in addition to improving the quality of the lives of millions of terminally ill individuals and their families each year, hospice care has also been proven to save the government money. Sounds like a win-win situation, right? Well, not judging by Congress’ proposed rate cuts.
The high-quality, compassionate end-of-life care Americans depend upon is threatened by not one but two devastating rate cuts. Already bracing for a 3 percent regulatory rate cut starting this month (the Budget Neutrality Adjustment Factor or BNAF), hospice, along with most other Medicare providers, is also facing additional cuts through a “productivity adjustment” to help finance health care reform.
These new reductions would slash rates by a damaging 11.8 percent throughout the next 10 years to fund new health care initiatives written into the bill. Combined, the impact of these two cuts would mean an astounding 14.3 percent loss to hospice. Considering hospice, as sited by MedPac, already operates on a very small profit margin of 3.4 percent, this means programs will go broke, doors will close, and Americans will be left without or with limited options of having hospice at home. In response to the proposed cuts, The Alliance for the End of Life Care and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) have launched “Two Cuts Are Too Much,” a grassroots campaign.
As part of this effort, I traveled throughout central Iowa videotaping touching testimonials, putting faces on the cuts Congress is about to pass. As is the case of many hospice employees, I learned about hospice care when my loved one needed it. I cannot imagine what my family would have done without the compassionate care we received, which allowed Grandma and Bessie to live the end of their lives in comfort and with dignity, according to their wishes. In my position as community relations coordinator for Hospice of Central Iowa, the largest non-profit hospice organization in the state, I see the benefits hospice brings to our communities each day. My colleagues and I are very concerned the proposed cuts would limit both our ability and that of other hospices likes ours to provide this needed service. Because care is most expensive to provide in rural areas like much of Iowa, many hospices here would have no choice but to close their doors or severely limit service areas.
NHPCO’s Legislative Action Center for steps to educate your Congressional representatives about how additional rate cuts would impact patient care in your local hospice community. Also encourage your friends and family to join the effort. Less than five minutes of your time can make a difference to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves and ensure that hospice is available now and for generations to come.
Community Relations Coordinator
Hospice of Central Iowa