A Visit from Deb Kelly: Hospice Advocacy from the Provider Perspective

In July of this year, Deb Kelly spent a couple of days with HAN staff, making visits to the Hill and getting to know NHPCO on a different level. This was Deb’s experience, in her own words.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with NHPCO’s Public Policy staff. The purpose of my visit was to gain a better understanding of public policy and obtain a general overview of the legislative process. It was an awesome experience and I would encourage any member to take some time to do this. This experience gave me a different perspective about my role as a hospice provider and how I might become more involved in advocacy.

Although I could have spent months and not seen everything I needed to, Jon Keyserling and Angie Truesdale were phenomenal in arranging activities so that I could see as much of the process as possible during my short visit. I had the opportunity to sit in on several meetings with key staff for members of the Senate and House. The purpose of these meetings was to gain support for Senate Bill 772- the HELP Hospice Act, and for a companion bill in the House of Representatives. The Help Hospice Bill 772 has 3 provisions in it. First, the bill requires some changes to the Face to Face encounter regulations to make the regulation more operational for providers. Secondly, the bill mandates that hospice programs are surveyed at least every 3 years and lastly it requires a demonstration project before hospice payment reform is implemented. All of these issues are critical to the future viability of our programs.

I was in awe of the approach used by the NHPCO/HAN staff and lobbyists as they met with various staff on “the Hill”. It is very obvious that they are all highly skilled advocates and we are very fortunate to have such an experienced group of individuals working with us. I think that what was most impressive to me is their commitment to hospice. Many of the NHPCO/HAN staff and the lobbyists were drawn to HAN because of prior experiences they have had in their personal lives with hospice.
While it would be easy to let this highly skilled group of advocates work to ensure that hospice is here for future generations, it is unrealistic to think that they can do it alone. These experts should certainly be leading the charge, but we as providers must also become active in ensuring that our legislators understand the importance of the work we do. So, I would encourage you to get involved by contacting your Senators and Representatives when they are back home and encourage them to support the HELP Hospice bills. Invite your Senator or Congressman to visit your program, arrange an in-district meeting or even attend a town hall meeting. Let them know that action is needed now to preserve hospice for the future.

Deborah J. Kelly RN, MSN, CHPN, is Chief Clinical Officer at Clarion Forest VNA, Inc., in Clarion, PA.