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Medicare cuts threaten hospice

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Janet Fortner

Janet Fortner

Janet Fortner

Did you know that so many people are choosing hospice care at the end of life that Medicare wants to make cuts to its hospice program?

Does it make sense to reduce access to a program that, by Medicare’s own studies, actually saves Medicare dollars by keeping people feeling better and out of the hospital?

Does it make sense to reduce access to a program when the numbers of those in need of care are dramatically rising?

By the time you read this, the cuts will most likely have begun, but you can still let your voice be heard.

For 30 years, Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region has been compassionately helping people of any age or illness meet the end of life with dignity, while providing
essential support and knowledge to their loved ones.

We began before there was insurance or Medicare coverage for hospice, and depended almost entirely on charitable support.

In 1984, we became the first hospice in North Carolina to offer the “Hospice Medicare Benefit.”

Had we not done so, our ability to make our services widely available would not have been possible.

As a not-for-profit organization, we still care for all eligible patients regardless of their ability to pay, and still depend on the generosity of our community to make this possible.

Most individuals we serve are covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance.

In 1983, Congress passed legislation creating the Hospice Medicare Benefit.

Offered to seniors, this benefit provides reimbursement for most hospice services, including needed medical equipment and medications.

Without this benefit, dying individuals and their families would have to shoulder the costs of these items.

The Hospice Medicare Benefit has proven to be extremely cost-effective for care during the last six months of life and supports the overwhelming desire of people to be
cared for at home, surrounded by loved ones who can actively participate in their care.

An independent study by Duke University showed that hospice saved an average of $2,300 per patient, or nearly $2 billion each year, and that close to 100 percent of families who used hospice would recommend it to others.

The Duke study also showed that, on average, dying patients who received hospice care lived 29 days longer than those who did not receive hospice care.

Better care equals feeling better equals longer life equals lower costs.

What could be better than this?

Today, Medicare’s hospice budget grows as people live longer and increasingly choose hospice care.

Ironically, the future of hospice care is being threatened.

As of this writing, Medicare cuts are scheduled to be enacted, while the cost of providing care is rising.

These cuts will likely result nationally in reduced patient access, program closures and less money to care for patients.

Because most hospice care is provided in the patient’s home, our clinicians travel over a million miles per year.

Rising gas prices have placed a new burden on our organization on top of rising costs for pharmaceuticals, supplies, equipment, and hiring and training health care
professionals.

Why should cuts in their reimbursements, penalize hospices for creating demand through their excellent service and saving health-care dollars?

You can still speak up for the right to access hospice care for your loved ones.

Contact your legislators today, apprise them of this situation and ask them to please act to rescind the proposed cuts that are now planned by the Center for Medicare and
Medicaid Services.

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