Voices of Care

Care Dimensions Urges Congress to Expand Access to Hospice, Palliative Care

Posted on April 18, 2019 by Lisa Conti

Care Dimensions Clinical Manager Abbie O'Grady (right) is joined by Christine McMichael of the Hospice & Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts (center) and Kristi Burbank of Seasons Hospice before a meeting with an aide to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren as part of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization's Leadership and Advocacy Conference.

More than 300 hospice supporters from across the nation – including a Care Dimensions clinical manager – descended on Capitol Hill on April 17 for meetings that stressed expanded access to and coverage for hospice and palliative care services.

The meetings with congressional policy advisors wrapped up three days of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s (NHPCO) annual Leadership and Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C. Clinical Manager Abbie O’Grady, RN, CHPN, who represented Care Dimensions in meetings with aides to Massachusetts members of Congress, brought her unique perspective as not only a nurse who has cared for hundreds of hospice patients, but also as the mother of a son who had pediatric hospice services from Care Dimensions before passing away from cancer. 

“Advocating with the Hospice Action Network, NHPCO and fellow hospice workers from 48 different states was an amazing and humbling experience,” said Abbie. “I was able to use my voice and our stories to advocate for better access to hospice and palliative care, the true model of patient and family-centered care.”

Abbie and other hospice representatives spoke about the importance of congressional support for the Medicare hospice benefit and for two bills:

  • The Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (H.R. 647) would help address the shortage of adequately trained hospice or palliative care providers. Hospice and palliative care physicians would train teams of interdisciplinary health care professionals in hospice and palliative care techniques.
  • The Rural Access to Hospice Act (S. 1190) would correct a glitch in the current law that prohibits Rural and Federally Qualified Health Clinicians from serving as their patients’ hospice attending physician. In rural areas, this is a significant barrier to hospice care.

They also urged members of Congress to oppose a 2% cut to Medicare base payment rates for hospice providers in 2020, as proposed by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. Hospice programs could be forced to cut back on their service areas, resulting in patients having to seek care in more expensive and less appropriate care settings.

“We had some very productive meetings,” said Abbie. “The congressional staffers we met with were receptive to our requests to support hospice and palliative care, and we thank them for listening to our stories of lives that were made better by focusing on their personal goals.” Abbie and two other Massachusetts-based hospice advocates met with aides to Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, and Representatives Seth Moulton, Joseph Kennedy, and William Keating.

Contact your members of Congress and express your support for the hospice-related bills detailed above.

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"Since 1978, Care Dimensions has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in more than 95 communities in Eastern Massachusetts."