WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 10, 2020)—The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) and a group of hospice organizations have sent a letter to Congress highlighting the need for further health care reform to allow hospice and palliative care to serve their patients while stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Over the last several weeks, Congress has enacted three separate legislative packages to provide support and relief in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The national hospice associations, including the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC), NHPCO, LeadingAge, NPHI, and VNAA/ElevatingHome, have been working in concert to send a unified message to policymakers on steps that can be taken to ease policy restrictions and provide other support that will assist hospice providers through the crisis. Late last week, in anticipation of a potential fourth legislative package, the associations once again joined forces in writing a letter to key member of the Senate and House of Representatives outlining current priorities for the hospice community in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter highlights four key areas of interest to hospice providers:

Access to personal protective equipment (PPE)—the letter recommends that Congress include hospice and other community-based providers as essential to protection of the community and among priority entities for access to PPE and for access to testing.

Funding—the letter outlines various ways that hospice providers are already experiencing financial strains in their operations, and expresses concerns that hospice providers may not have access to the $100 billion fund included in the CARES Act funds. The national organizations outline various ways that Congress could provide direct financial support to hospice providers, including:

  • A 1% increase in hospice payments for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency (Or Dec. 31, 2020, whichever comes first)
  • A $3 billion grant program targeted to hospice and palliative care programs
  • Health provider loans (implemented in conjunction with direct funding programs)
  • Expansion of the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program, with a higher cap on the number of employees

Enhanced Access to Advance Care Planning—Also included in the letter are recommendations that Congress expands the types of practitioners eligible to bill for advance care planning codes to include clinical social workers and registered nurses, waive any deductible or cost-sharing requirements associated with advance care planning visits, and allow for portability of advance directives.

Support an Enhanced Hospice and Palliative Care Workforce—The letter further urges that Congress enact the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA S. 2080/H.R. 647) and the Rural Access to Hospice Act.

NAHC and the other national organizations will be working together to advocate on these priorities. A copy of the letter is available here.