What’s Going on in Congress?

VP of Public Policy Sharon Pearce breaks down the busy end-of-the-year schedule in Congress:

As the December holidays are upon us, Congress is scrambling to complete a long list of legislative  “to-dos” before heading out at the end of the month.  Of particular importance to the hospice community is the FY 2018 spending package, a bipartisan Medicare extenders package, a hotly contested tax reform bill and an extension of the CHIP program.

Just this week, Congress passed a two-week stop-gap spending measure that will keep the government open through December 22nd.  This gives Congress a few more weeks to finalize the FY 2018 budget, but lawmakers acknowledge that another extension will likely be necessary.

Bipartisan discussions are also underway for a package of Medicare “extenders” policies.  The Ways & Means Committee recently released its package of extenders (https://waysandmeans.house.gov/ways-means-committee-leaders-announce-bipartisan-medicare-extenders-package/), and the Senate is also working on its version.  For the most part, this legislative package is not controversial.  However, Congress will have to come up with “offsets” to pay for these policy extensions, and that could tee up potential cuts to provider payments.  NHPCO is working hard to ensure that hospice payments stay OFF the chopping block.

Congressional Republicans have also been working furiously to pass a major tax reform bill that could have several implications for the health care sector. In order to stay within the budget rules, the bill has a provision that would double sequestration from 2 to 4 percent if the bill substantially increases the deficit.  Proponents of the bill have argued that the bill would drive economic growth, so the trigger would not be tripped. To alleviate provider concerns, however, lawmakers have promised to take future legislative action to prevent any increases in sequestration.  The bill is currently in a joint House/Senate Conference committee.

Finally, Congress is considering extending sequestration – which is set to expire in 2025 — for an additional two years in order to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  Health providers have expressed concern about continuation of the 2 percent cuts, but Congress seems poised to move forward with this change.

NHPCO will continue to track activity around this legislation and work to make the concerns of hospice organizations heard on Capitol Hill.

 

Registration for the Advocacy Intensive is Open Now!

Yes, you read that right! This year, our signature advocacy event, the Advocacy Intensive, is occurring in coordination with NHPCO’s Management and Leadership Conference! That means that instead of sweating through a hot Capitol Hill walk in July, you can enjoy the beautiful DC spring in April!

The Advocacy Intensive will take place on Wednesday, April 25, the third day of the Management and Leadership Conference. Full-price attendees to the MLC have complimentary access to the Advocacy Intensive, and those who wish to only attend the one-day Advocacy Intensive pay only a minimal fee. Scholarships are still available for individuals who need financial assistance to attend the Advocacy Intensive.

We recognize that this is a big change from previous years, but we hope that by combining these events, we ease the travel and time-off burden that many people face when trying to attend both the MLC and Advocacy Intensive. Nevertheless, we are still offering you the advocacy training, networking, and congressional meetings to help you carry the voice of our community to Capitol Hill.

Early bird rates are available through December 15. Register here. 

Please let us know if you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you in April!

Monthly News Update

National Hospice and Palliative Care Month has come to a close, and thank you to everyone who participated in Social Media Day and other outreach events throughout the month. Our official month may be ending, but see below for a quick recap of everything that has happened over the past few weeks:
 Regulatory Update:

NHPCO Around Town:

Good Reads

Don’t forget to check out NHPCO’s latest Podcast, OIG 2017 Workplan and Hospice

What’s on the Horizon:
The Advocacy Intensive is Changing. The 2018 Advocacy Intensive will occur on Wednesday, April 25, the third day of NHPCO’s annual Management and Leadership Conference. The early bird discount is available until December 15th –  Register Today!

Special thank you to everyone who participated in National Hospice and Palliative Care Month! Whether you reached out to Members of Congress, participated in a We Honor Veterans ceremony, or volunteered with your local hospice organization, we appreciate all of your hard work and effort.

As always, we are monitoring the changes coming out of Congress, CMS, and the White House. Feel free to share this update with your collegues, and please share our current Action Alerts! Additionally, we are working to update our advocacy materials for 2018, so please check out our Advocacy Toolkit, and send us your ideas for improvements!

Thank you for all you do!

Changes to the Advocacy Intensive

In recognition of the difficulties of getting time off and funding travel to Washington, DC multiple times per year, we’ve decided to try a new tactic with the Advocacy Intensive and Management and Leadership Conference this year. We’ve joined them!

This year, the Advocacy Intensive will occur on Wednesday, April 25, the third day of NHPCO’s annual Management and Leadership Conference. We hope that this will be more efficient and cost effective, especially for those of you coming from far away.

All attendees of the Management and Leadership Conference are eligible to register for the Advocacy Intensive at no additional cost. If however, you would prefer just to attend the Wednesday Advocacy Intensive, there is a small $150 ($100 for NHPCO Members) registration fee.

Registration is open now, with a special Early Bird Discount available through December 15!

On Wednesday, April 25, we will have breakfast starting at 7am, followed by a Plenary Session at 8:30am and Concurrent Sessions at 10:30am. From Noon onwards, there will be meetings on Capitol Hill. We are thrilled this year that we were able to secure space on Capitol Hill for an evening reception following your meetings. We will honor our Congressional Champions and celebrate a successful day of advocacy, starting at 5:30pm!

Given the placement of this year’s Advocacy Intensive, there will be less time for pre-meetings training sessions. We plan to offer pre-conference webinars, and will address our legislative priorities and tactics for having successful meetings in the Wednesday sessions. We are hopeful that our returning advocates will be able to help coach any nervous newbies through the meetings process!

 

If you have any questions about these changes, need help registering, or want assisting in preparing for your meetings, please reach out at info@nhpcohan.org.

Hospice Compare Search Function Update

CMS has affirmed that the location search on Hospice Compare may return incorrect results.  As a result, CMS has posted a message on the home page of the Hospice Compare website informing users that when searching by location, the list of agencies provided may not serve the zip code, city, or state entered in the search field. The message also recommends that consumers call hospice providers to confirm their service areas.

CMS is currently working to improve the search functionality. Hospices should continue to monitor the Hospice Quality Public Reporting webpage for updates.

NHPCO has been instrumental in bringing the Hospice Compare search feature malfunction, as well as other problems, to CMS’ attention and has persistently advocated for resolution.  We will continue to take an active role in working with CMS to ensure that errors are corrected and Hospice Compare achieves its purpose of assisting consumers in making decisions that are right for them.

Reminder – The Hospice Compare Refresh scheduled for November 21, 2017 has been delayed.  The new refresh date has not yet been determined.

Please note that this refresh delay did not impact the HIS Freeze date of November 15, 2017. The date for availability of the HIS Provider Preview Reports is also not affected and remains December 1, 2017.

Feel free to email your questions to NHPCO at quality@nhpco.org.