WASHINGTON – Wednesday, the bipartisan Helping Our Senior Population in Comfort Environments (HOSPICE) Act, introduced by Reps. Tom Reed (R-NY-23) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20) unanimously passed the Ways and Means Committee, recommending the legislation for a vote in the full U.S. House of Representatives.
"When my mother became sick, there was nothing I wouldn’t have done to cure her, but she taught me that what truly mattered to her was comfort and time spent with her family," Reed recalled. "Surrounded by a wonderful team of hospice care providers, we watched as her wishes were met. However, we must hold bad actors in the caregiver community accountable, and I am proud to see this legislation to demand additional oversight and transparency of Medicare hospice providers advance toward the House floor." 

Panetta said, "Hospice patients, family members, and caregivers should have the confidence that their hospice is a safe environment during an already difficult time.  My bipartisan legislation will hold bad actors accountable, enhance the integrity of the entire hospice program, and improve the quality of care for patients in the last stages of life. I urge House leadership to improve the hospice benefit and protect patients by scheduling our bipartisan bill for a floor vote."

In July 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG) released two reports that identified significant deficiencies in the quality of care delivered to Medicare hospice enrollees.  According to the OIG’s two reports, 87 percent of hospices had at least one care deficiency between 2012 and 2016.  Twenty percent had at least one serious deficiency, meaning that the health and safety of a beneficiary were in jeopardy or the hospice was limited in its capacity to deliver adequate care.  Currently the only remedy to penalize a poor performing hospice is removal from the Medicare program.  The OIG issued a series of recommendations for the improvement of quality in hospice care, many of which are addressed in this bill.

To improve the hospice benefit and protect vulnerable patients, the HOSPICE Act would achieve parity with other post-acute care settings by providing HHS with remedies to oversee and penalize hospices that provide poor quality care, improve surveys and surveyor education, and  increase transparency for patients and caregivers including requiring states to maintain a toll-free hotline for hospice patients and their families to report abuse and neglect.

Reed and Panetta are members of the Ways and Means Committee, which has sole jurisdiction over the hospice benefit.