Hospice Employees Urge Support of HELP Hospice Act

Dear Editor,

As employees of Hospice of the Red River Valley, we were privileged to be part of a hospice advocacy campaign that took place in Washington, D.C. on June 18 – 19, 2012. As part of this campaign, hospice representatives from around the country joined to discuss and advocate for the hospice benefit and changes in regulations that could negatively impact the delivery of hospice care, an undeniably important benefit that terminally ill people are entitled to. Specifically, we urged our Congressmen to support the Hospice Evaluation and Legitimate Payment (HELP) Act.

The hospice community faces unprecedented reimbursement and regulatory challenges. Hospice programs around the nation are preparing for the devastating impact of multiple Medicare rate cuts, and working around the clock to comply with new regulations that are not currently in line with the operational realities of patient care. As of now, rural North Dakota already receives the lowest reimbursement rate in the country for hospice services. Certainly, changes in health care are necessary, but unreasonable, unfunded mandates and disproportionate rate cuts will bring us to our knees.

While hospice care is often misunderstood, the value of hospice-both in terms of quality of end-of-life care for patients and their families, and savings to Medicare-is undeniable. Passage of the HELP Hospice Act would ensure that future changes to payment methodology and patient care are consistent with the operational realities of the hospice community, especially rural programs. This is instrumental in preserving access to hospice for future generations.

As residents of North Dakota, we met with our members of Congress and/or their staff. It was both an honor and a humbling experience to have the opportunity to sit with our delegates on Capitol Hill and have a chance to discuss with them why we not only strongly believe in our work, but also hear how they have seen hospice in action.

We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Senators John Hoeven and Kent Conrad, and Representative Rick Berg, as well as their staff, for taking time to learn what hospice provides for communities in rural North Dakota and the role hospice plays in the lives of the terminally ill and their loved ones.

We firmly believe hospice care is part of the solution to our nation’s health care problems. And, we know, with certainty, we make a difference in the lives of our patients and their families.

Please join us in supporting the HELP Hospice Act and contact North Dakota’s Congressmen and urge them to support the Act too. Passage of this legislation is a necessary first step to preserving access to hospice for future generations, particularly in rural areas like much of North Dakota.

With Respect,

Derek Martin, RN, CHPN                                Robyn Ullrich, LSW Clinical Manager                                                          Patient Care Social Worker

Hospice of the Red River Valley