Dr. Boozman's Check-up

November is National Hospice Month, a perfect time to recognize dozens of hospice organizations and the exceptional end-of-life care they provide to Arkansans. 

Every year, more than 1.58 million Americans living with life-limiting illnesses, and their families, receive care from the nation’s hospice programs in communities throughout the United States. 

My family understands the value of hospice care.  Thanks to hospice, we were at my mom’s side as she spent her final weeks in comfort, home in Fort Smith, with caring professionals managing her pain.

It was a blessing to support my mom in those final weeks, and we are forever thankful for the caring professionals that make hospice their calling.

Hospice care has grown increasingly in recent years because it improves quality of life at a reduced cost, but that growth may soon come to a halt.  Hospice providers face unforeseen challenges created by Obamacare, which cuts Medicare reimbursements for hospice care and creates a new, inflexible face-to-face requirement for Medicare hospice patients.

That is why I am cosponsoring the HELP Hospice Act (S.722), which would require the government to create a two-year, 15-site demonstration program for payment reform to ensure that providers are not shortchanged by Medicare payment restructuring.  The bill would also amend the new face-to-face encounter requirement to reflect operational realities for hospice programs and the needs of the patients and families they serve.  These reforms would ensure Arkansas’s small and rural hospices are not forced to turn down patients who are most in need because of operational constraints that larger hospice organizations in higher populated areas may not face.

As National Hospice Month comes to a close this week, it is important to recognize the vital care that hospice groups provide.  We must do more to ensure that this invaluable service remains available to families and caretakers of Americans in the final stage of their lives.