WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced new legislation – the Hospice Care Improvement Act – to address the lack of safety protocols and transparency in hospices across the country. Following the release of reports (found here and here) in July from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) highlighting specific instances of patient harm in hospices and a lack of transparency to highlight potential patient abuses and facility deficiencies, this legislation would act on recommendations from HHS, patients, and industry experts to ensure patient safety.
The bill would seek to improve oversight and accountability in the nation’s hospices by focusing on improving patient awareness of hospice abuse and by ensuring that hospices remain responsible for the care that they provide to patients. The proposed bill would publish hospice survey results for patients, increase survey frequency, improve educational materials and opportunities for hospices and surveyors, and establish penalties for bad actors in a manner commensurate with existing penalties for other providers, like nursing homes and home health agencies. Congressmen Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Congressman Tom Reed (R-NY) are leading the effort on similar legislation in the House.
The text of the bill is here.
“Families in need of hospice care should be able to concentrate on the comfort and care of their loved one without the worry of unacceptable safety and medical standards,” said Senator Cardin. “The OIG and DOJ reports, coupled with HHS and stakeholder recommendations gave us a path forward that will increase transparency and patient safety, as well as increase the peace of mind and respect that should be ever present during hospice care.”
“The findings from the HHS OIG report on hospice care abuse across our country are deeply upsetting and unacceptable,” said Senator Portman. “A hospice patient should live out their final days with comfort and dignity, and their families should have the peace of mind knowing their loved ones are receiving the best care. This legislation will provide the oversight needed for hospices and give patients and their families the transparency and accountability they deserve.”
”As the leading organization representing over 4,000 hospice providers that serve a majority of the hospice patients, NHPCO supports the reasonable policies outlined in the bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) which focuses on implementing new safeguards and strengthening existing ones in order to protect patients facing serious illness at the end of life,” said NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach. “We will continue to work with Congress and the Administration on enhancing access to high quality, interdisciplinary, person-centered care for those facing serious illness, including those in underserved and rural areas. NHPCO supports regulations that promote accountability and safety and is eager to work with lawmakers to develop reasonable policies and enforcement mechanisms that promote program integrity. We must also update the hospice benefit and codify a palliative care benefit to allow people to get appropriate care when they need it.”