Advocacy Alert on Hospice Rates Sent

NASW sent an advocacy alert to its chapters and its advocacy listserv in April urging social workers nationwide to contact their congressional representatives about an important effort to withdraw an impending hospice rate-cut regulation.

More specifically, the alert asked recipients to recommend that their representatives sign the "Van Hollen/Brown-Waite Dear Colleague" letter, asking President Obama to rescind the hospice rate-cut regulation.

"People approaching the end of life deserve high-quality, comprehensive care to ensure their comfort and dignity," the alert stated.

There is currently a moratorium on the regulation, which is set to expire this fall.

A Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regulation to reduce Medicare reimbursement to hospices by phasing out the hospice budget neutrality adjustment factor over a three year-period went into effect on Oct. 1, 2008, the alert stated.

President Obama's approved stimulus recovery bill included a provision to temporarily delay implementation of this hospice reduction until Sept. 30 of this year. The delay allowed hospice programs to continue providing high-quality and compassionate end-of-life care to more than 1.4 million individuals and families each year, the alert pointed out.

However, when the moratorium expires in the fall, the hospice rate cuts will be phased back in at an even greater magnitude for the next fiscal year, the alert warned.

Advocates said these cuts will cause many small, rural hospice programs to close their doors permanently, severely hindering patient access to essential services.

U.S. Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) are circulating a letter to Obama, asking him to rescind the hospice rate-cut regulation immediately and enable hospices nationwide to continue fulfilling their crucial mission.