Guest Post

Hospice Action Week 2024: Advocates Are Stronger Together

June 10-13 marked Hospice Action Week 2024 (HAW 2024), where hospice and palliative care advocates from across the nation united in Washington, DC to speak on policy priorities impacting providers, patients, and families. Advocates represented every piece of the hospice community— state association leaders, hospice CEOs, government relations staff, volunteer coordinators, medical directors, and bereavement counselors. Together, these advocates participated in face-to-face meetings with congressional offices of both parties in the House and Senate.

With a recent increase of legislative and regulatory activity related to hospice and palliative care, advocates were invited to pick one to two policy asks to discuss with legislative offices. Policy topics included appropriate regulatory and legislative action needed to stop hospice fraud, support for adjustments to make the upcoming hospice Special Focus Program more equitable, continued telehealth flexibilities, support for access to full Veterans benefits, investment in the expansion of the hospice and palliative care workforce, and ensuring adequate payment for hospice care.

Legislative offices were also given information about, the lasting impact of President Carter’s hospice journey, and the unique needs of pediatric hospice care.

This marked the largest in-person advocacy and Hill Day gathering for Hospice Action Week since the pandemic, with participation from 100 plus Hill Day advocates, representing 34 states, who visited over 150 congressional offices. Attendees included NHPCO / HAN Board members, Council of States members, MyHospice Ambassadors, Next Generation Leadership Council members, and for the first time, select levels 4 and 5 We Honor Veterans partners.

More than half of the Hill Day advocates this year had never attended a legislative meeting previously. As a result, the HAN team produced new tools and programming to set all attending advocates up for success. These included worksheets on practicing storytelling, roleplaying a meeting with a legislative office, Advocacy Basics training, plus a panel of experienced advocates. From a grassroots perspective, it was vital to welcome in new advocates and to build up their knowledge, and thereby confidence, leading up to the Hill Day.

Among the first-time advocates attending the Hill Day were four NHPCO summer interns, including Blake Waller, who is paired with the HAN team. Blake, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, accompanied Kim Olson, Chief Compliance Officer at St. Croix Hospice, and Logan Hoover, Vice President of Policy and Government Relations at NHPCO on three meetings with Minnesota Congressional offices. Blake shares his thoughts on his experience below:

“Participating in Hill Day during Hospice Action Week on behalf of NHPCO and HAN was an eye-opening experience. The day was marked by a clear sense of purpose as advocates from across the country gathered to discuss crucial hospice and palliative care issues with their legislators. The dedication and urgency among participants was palpable, reflecting their commitment to improving care for patients and families.

Each interaction with legislative offices underscored the power of personal stories and the importance of well-researched policy asks.

Blake Waller, attending a legislative meeting on Hill Day with Kim Olson, Chief Compliance Officer at St. Croix Hospice, and Logan Hoover, Executive Director of HAN.

Throughout the day, I was particularly struck by how Kim Olson communicated the challenges facing the hospice community. Her passion and clarity were inspiring and demonstrated the effectiveness of informed and heartfelt advocacy.

A key lesson I learned from Hill Day was understanding the profound impact that advocacy can have on legislative processes. This experience brought to life the challenges facing hospice care and emphasized the importance of providing a voice for those who often cannot speak for themselves.

Reflecting on Hill Day, I am grateful for the opportunity to witness and contribute to such meaningful work. This experience has not only enhanced my understanding of the legislative process but also strengthened my commitment to supporting critical issues in the future.

Blake’s experience is just one of many from newcomers this year, highlighting how a Hill Day can have major impacts beyond the event itself.

Overall, Hospice Action Week 2024 demonstrated the immense value of gathering and effectively preparing a wide array of voices to advocate for hospice and palliative care.

Learn more about how YOU can be part of changing hospice care policy for the better by signing up with the Hospice Action Network today!