Being a Hospice Advocate

Today I thought I’d share an article written by one of my colleagues at NHPCO, Cassius Harris. Cassius has been an employee of the NHPCO Solutions Center for over nine years, assisting NHPCO Members and the general public with their questions about hospice. Here, he personalizes the experience of what being a hospice advocate means to him: 

As preparations for the summer Advocacy Intensive fall into place, NHPCO staff member Cassius Harris shares thoughts about the ways he advocates for hospice and palliative care in his daily work on the Solutions Center team.

Working in the NHPCO Solutions Center and supporting Infoline has taught me a great deal about the hospice field. From assisting NHPCO members to educating consumers, I have become quite knowledgeable about the hospice community and the many benefits that hospice and palliative care offer to patients and family caregivers. More importantly, working here has made me realize that I have become more than an NHPCO employee but something else – a hospice advocate.

Author Cassius Harris talks about how anyone, not just healthcare professionals, can be a hospice advocate.

When I started working here, I was under the impression that hospice advocacy only applied to those directly in the field – nurses, social workers, doctors, etc. Over time, I started questioning myself regarding my own feelings about hospice and end of life issues- Does hospice apply to me since my college degree is not in the medical field? Should it concern me since no one close to me is dying? Through my experiences, I have slowly come to the realization that anyone- regardless of profession – can be a hospice advocate if they have compassion for those at the end of life. Although having the educational credentials and background does help, advocacy does not require much except your willingness to have compassion for those that are at the end of life.Whether speaking to family members or friends, I find myself educating others on the basics of hospice because many people do not understand it’s benefits. Many people think it is a depressing subject that is not worth discussing. I have even met some people that mock it and joke about it. I explain to them that death is a serious issue and watching your love ones suffer in their last days can be unbearable.

When people ask me about my job I usually tell them that it is tad bit depressing but quite rewarding. Whether helping a consumer find a hospice in their local area or mailing out educational materials, I explain how wonderful it feels to promote an industry that can alleviate pain and suffering for caregivers and their loved ones.

With all of the information out there from websites to news articles, all one has to do is educate themselves and question their core values – how much do I care about people? What can I do to improve the quality of living at the end of life? Hopefully more and more people will become hospice advocates. All one has to do is look inside themselves and question their core values.

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Learn more about the 2017 Hospice Action Network Advocacy Intensive, July 17-18.

 

CHRONIC Bill moves through Finance Committee

Senate Finance Committee recently passed the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017. This legislation is the product of several years of work by the committee to improve care for Medicare beneficiaries with chronic illness, whether they are served by traditional fee-for-service, Medicare Advantage plans, or Accountable Care Organizations.

What is most notable for the hospice community is not what’s in the bill, but what is not. Early drafts of this legislative package included a proposal to carve hospice in under the Medicare Advantage program. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of the hospice community, the committee opted not to include a hospice MA carve-in in this legislation.

The bill does, however, include a range of policies aimed at increasing home based care, advancing team based care, expanding innovation and technology, better identifying the chronically ill population, and empowering individuals and caregivers in care delivery. Many provisions in the bill are relevant to distinct provider groups and patient populations, such as ESRD patients or telehealth providers. Others, however, may be of particular interest to hospice and palliative care providers, including provisions that:

  • Extend the Independence at Home program, a physician and nurse-based model that allows seniors with multiple, complex, chronic conditions to receive specialized care at home from a team of providers. Some hospice and palliative care programs have developed relationships with IAH programs.
  • Allow an MA plan to offer a wider array of supplemental benefits to chronically ill enrollees. These supplemental benefits would be required to have a reasonable expectation of improving or maintaining the health or overall function of the chronically-ill enrollee and would not be limited to primarily health related services. This could be an opportunity for providers to work with MA plans to offer community based palliative care services.
  • Require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to submit a report to Congress to facilitate a comprehensive plan of longitudinal care for a Medicare beneficiary diagnosed with a serious or life-threatening illness. GAO would study the extent to which such services are currently provided to beneficiaries, whether there would be any duplication with existing benefits, and any barriers to hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, hospice programs, home health agencies and other providers working with a Medicare beneficiary to engage in the care planning process. NHPCO would be sure to work with GAO on this important report.

While the Finance Committee passed the bill with unanimous approval, it is unclear whether the bill will find its way to the Senate floor in the near term. Senator Hatch has made clear his intent to keep the bill separate from other bills to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. As such, it could take some time for this bill to move through the process. NHPCO and HAN will be sure to carefully monitor and keep our members apprised about the progress of this legislation.

Questions? Comments? Contact the HAN team at info@nhpcohan.org

CEO Edo Banach Hits the Road

Earlier this week, NHPCO’s newly-minted CEO, Edo Banach, visited with key hospice champions on Capitol Hill, including Senator Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), and Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN).  During the meetings, Edo discussed hospice policy priorities, NHPCO’s goals for the future of hospice and palliative care, and strategies for building Congressional support for hospice and palliative care.  This is part of NHPCO and HAN’s ongoing efforts to maintain and grow its presence on Capitol Hill and with the Administration.

Do you want to meet with Members of Congress on Capitol Hill? Make sure you register for the FREE Advocacy Intensive! Learn more here. 

To learn more about these issues – and to share *your* thoughts on the future of hospice and palliative care – mark your calendar and participate in NHPCO’s upcoming Summer Listening Tour. CEO Edo Banach will be travelling the country to listen to YOU, and hear from you about your vision for the future of hospice and palliative care. The current cities and dates are:

Las Vegas, NV – June 7
Chicago, IL – June 13
Austin, TX – June 14
Kansas City, MO – June 19
New York City, NY – July 12
Alexandria, VA – July 13
Atlanta, GA – July 24
Denver, CO – TBD
Boston, MA – TBD

Check out the Summer Listening Tour page for more information!

NHPCO CEO Edo Banach meets with West Virginia Senator and Hospice Champion Shelley Moore Capito on Capitol Hill.

We Asked, You Delivered!

HAN sent out an appeal last week asking Hospice Advocates, in part, to use our Action Alerts to send an email to your Members of Congress on 3 pieces of legislation:

  1. The Rural Access to Hospice Act
  2. The Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act
  3. The Medicare Patient Access to Hospice Act

Within 24 hours, you sent 515 total emails to Capitol Hill! That brings the total number of emails Hospice Advocates have sent to Congress up to 776 in 2017. Great job!

Click here to see if your Members of Congress have co-sponsored legislation. If so, send them a quick thank-you note. Give them a shout out on Twitter.

Are your Members of Congress missing from the list? Take action using the links above if you haven’t already. If you have, share them with a friend. Your coworkers. Your book club. Ask them to join you in taking action.

Thank YOU for taking action, and to every Member of Congress who has supported these three bills!

Advocacy Needed!

You may have heard that there is A LOT going on in Washington, DC right now, so we need our Advocates to do two important things:

Please complete our Action Alerts on the following hospice and palliative care legislation:

  1. The Rural Access to Hospice Act
  2. The Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act
  3. The Medicare Patient Access to Hospice Act
  4. And please share these links with your networks to help spread the word!

Please reach out and invite your Members of Congress to visit your program.  

  1. Congress has TWO upcoming district work periods (May 27-June 2, and July 3-7). This is the perfect time to invite your Members of Congress to visit your program, meet with your staff, and discuss the above-mentioned legislation.
  2. If you are a We Honor Veterans partner, please invite your Members of Congress to attend your upcoming Memorial Day and July 4th Honor Ceremonies.
  3. Check out our resources to help you host a Member of Congress:
    1. Find Your Members of Congress
    2. Email us if you need the scheduler’s email address!
    3. Template Invitation Letter
    4. Involving a Member of Congress in a We Honor Veterans Ceremony Video

You can find more resources in the Advocacy Toolkit on our website.

It is especially important that Congress hear from you, their constituents! We need you to show them what hospice and palliative care really looks like in their district, and be strong, effective advocates for the patients and families you serve. Please reach out to us if you need any help with finding the right Member of Congress, contacting their office, and/or organizing an event. And, if you do meet with Members of Congress, make sure to tell us about it!

Keep up the great work, and please let us know how we can help you!

Rita Isnetto (GA Executive Director), and Anna Evans (Music Therapist) at Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care in Atlanta, GA, hosted Senator Johnny Isakson for a discussion about the We Honor Veterans Program and how it helps care for the unique needs of Veterans at the end-of-life. You can do something similar!