WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 7, 2020)—Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia) introduced the COVID-19 Hospice Respite Care Relief Act of 2020 (S. 4423), designed to establish additional flexibilities related to delivery of respite care services during public health emergencies (PHEs) such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the legislation provides the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) authority, during any public health emergency (including the COVID-19 PHE), to:

  • Waive the five-day maximum for respite care when the caregiver is unable to provide care due to illness or isolation, for up to 15 days;
  • Waive the requirement that respite care only be provided in the inpatient setting, making the hospice respite benefit available to hospice patients in their place of residence, thereby keeping the patient safe and reducing exposure to COVID-19.

The impetus for the legislation relates to challenges experienced by hospices nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic arising from the need for extended respite in situations where family caregivers are not available to care for hospice patients for a time frame exceeding the current five-day limit (for example, when family caregivers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and must isolate from vulnerable hospice patients). Additionally, there have been numerous instances where patients may be unwilling to enter a facility for respite care due to the potential risk of contracting COVID-19 or in cases where contracted facilities will not admit hospice patients to respite care beds due to COVID-19 concerns. The legislation is supported by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) and other hospice stakeholder groups.

“The COVID-19 Hospice Respite Care Relief Act of 2020 would help to ease the challenges that have emerged around the delivery of institution-based respite care under the benefit by permitting patients to stay home while providing a break for their family caregivers, as well as to allow for longer time on respite care, if needed,” said NAHC President Bill Dombi in reaction to the bill’s introduction. “In addition to supporting the flexibilities in S. 4423, NAHC has urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to instruct surveyors to consider the special circumstances that have arisen during the PHE that have limited the ability of hospice providers nationwide to offer respite care, such as closure of contracted respite beds in facilities.”

For a one-page fact sheet on the legislation, please go here.

A link to the legislative text is available here.