The 2010 Elections are Over! Now What?

It’s just a few days after the elections. We’ve all cast our ballots. Some election results are still being tabulated as I type this post. However, many of the races have been called; victory and concession speeches have been given. Now, there‘s a big class of new policymakers preparing to take their seats in the 112th Congress at the beginning of the year. But what does it all mean? The dust is starting to settle and based on a number of queries to the NHPCO Hospice Action Network (HAN) headquarters, you want to know what the implications are for the hospice community. And, I want to give you answers. I’m not a full-fledged policy wonk, just a PWIT (policy-wonk-in-training) so bear with me.

That said, here are a few things we know for sure…

  1. The hospice community has always, ALWAYS, always enjoyed the support of both Democrats and Republicans in both chambers of Congress.
  2. Bipartisan support for hospice is not going to change because quality, compassionate and cost-effective end-of-life care is a far reaching concern for most people in this country. Hospice support will continue to bridge many gaps; not the least among them party affiliation.
  3. Working with existing Hospice Champions on the Hill this year, NHPCO HAN and Hospice Advocates started laying the groundwork on several fronts to ramp up the fight to protect the Medicare Hospice Benefit as we know it. It seemed like Hospice Advocates were everywhere at once- from getting several beneficial provisions for hospice passed in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to gaining wide-spread support for the Harkin-Roberts hospice payment reform letter to Health and Human Services.
  4. With the election of more than 60 new Members of Congress, we have an awesome opportunity to educate and cultivate new Hospice Champions on the Hill.

Based on what we know, I think we can draw several conclusions about what the election results will mean for Hospice Advocacy on the Hill. In my view, it means that not a whole lot has changed for us in terms of the way we approach advocating for hospice. We need to continue educating Congress, especially the newly-elected officials. As they work to get their arms around health policy and the healthcare law, it is our job to make sure that they understand the implications of ACA provisions like Medicare reimbursement rate cuts to hospice. I know, I know…I’m a self-proclaimed PWIT and you might be a little skeptical, but don’t be! I have my information on good authority from some full-fledged policy wonks.

In fact, I attended a Hudson Institute policy briefing this morning called “After the Election: Can the New Congress Repeal Health Care Reform?” The panel included a deputy assistant to former President George W. Bush, former Senate health staffers, a Hudson Institute research fellow and the list goes on. The panel had a very thought-provoking discussion on the subject and the general consensus at the end of the briefing was simple. It was that new Members of Congress will have to work to implement ACA while trying to tweak or repeal parts of the law that they do not support. That is why this election should serve as a call to action for Hospice Advocates. It is the hospice community’s chance to become even more engaged and work doubly hard to enlighten new and existing Members of Congress about quality end-of-life care and its impact on communities throughout the country. Here at HAN, we’re working to ensure that there are guided opportunities for Hospice Advocates like you to do just that and they include:

  1. HAN’s Third Annual Capitol Hill Day – a two-day, all-about-Hospice Advocacy event that trains advocates to share their hospice stories with their Members of Congress. The Hospice Action Network will do all the heavy lifting- from transport, to teaching you about how to meet with your elected officials, we do it all- we’ll even schedule your meetings! Capitol Hill Day 2011 is officially open for online registration, so get registered!
  2. The Hospice Advocacy Local Leader program- a new HAN initiative to help encourage dedicated Hospice Advocates take stewardship over advocacy efforts in their hometowns. These Local Leaders are critical to mobilizing community Hospice Advocates to reach out to decision makers on behalf of hospice. We’ve just published a NewsLine article about getting involved with this program titled “Join the Ranks of Hospice Advocacy Local Leaders,” read it for more information and get involved!

I sincerely believe – and I’m sure the rest of the HAN team will back me up here – that Hospice Advocates are key to determining where the hospice community stands in terms of politics and policy on the Hill. Thus, if you embrace these opportunities to engage Members of Congress, together we can affect enormous positive change for the hospice community in terms of health policy in the coming months and years. So I urge you to worry less about political fallout from the elections and more about using this moment in time to cultivate a greater number of Hospice Champions on the Hill than we’ve ever seen before!