Legislative Update: August 27, 2019

Congress is in recess and scheduled to return to work on Monday, September 9th.
 
As lawmakers return to Washington, there are two key hospice and palliative care proposals pending before Congress.
 
The first is the "Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (H.R. 647/S.2080)", introduced January 25, 2019 by Representative Engel (D-NY-16) in the House and on July 10, 2019 by Senator Baldwin (D-WI) in the Senate.
 
This legislation, sometimes called “PCHETA”, would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide support for Palliative Care and Hospice Education Centers. Under the legislation, these centers would be directed to improve the training of health professionals in palliative care and establish traineeships for individuals preparing for advanced education nursing degrees, social work degrees, or advanced degrees in physician assistant studies in palliative care.  The proposal would also allow HHS to provide support to schools of medicine, schools of osteopathic medicine, teaching hospitals, and graduate medical education programs for training physicians who plan to teach palliative medicine.
 
Currently, 265 lawmakers have signed on as “cosponsors” – or supporters – of the PCHETA legislation in the House of Representatives and 25 lawmakers signed on to the bill in the Senate. The PCHETA legislation is now pending before the House Energy&Commerce Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
 
The “Rural Access to Hospice Act (H.R. 2594/S.1190)” is another proposal that would impact access to hospice care. This legislation was introduced by Senator Capito (R-WV) on April 11, 2019 and by Representative Kind (D-WI-03) on May 8, 2019. 
 
H.R. 2594/S. 1190 would improve access to hospice care by reforming how rural health clinics (RHCs) and federally-qualified health centers (FQHCs) are paid for hospice-related services. Specifically, when patients enroll in hospice, they select a physician or nurse practitioner to serve as their attending physician. The attending physician collaborates with the hospice in the development of the care plan, and is kept informed of the patient’s care. Attending physicians are typically reimbursed for their services under Medicare Part B. However, RHCs and FQHCs are not allowed to receive this reimbursement. This legislation would revise Medicare payment rules to allow attending physicians employed by RHCs or FQHCs to begin receiving reimbursement under Medicare Part B, which will improve access to care in rural and underserved communities.
 
The legislation currently has bipartisan support with 17 cosponsors in the House and 9 cosponsors in the Senate. The proposal is now pending before both the Energy&Commerce and Ways&Means Committee in the House and the Senate Finance Committee in the Senate.
 
ElevatingHOME, VNAA and their partners at Leading Age will continue to monitor these legislative initiatives and urge the relevant Committees to move forward with supporting these important proposals.