Posted tagged ‘health care reform’

Hill Day perspective

April 14, 2011

by Pete Brunnick, HPCCR President & CEO

Last week, eight members of the Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region management team attended the 26th annual National Hospice and Palliative Care Management and Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.  The theme for this year’s event was “Navigating the Sea of Change”.  Attended by over 1,500 hospice leaders from across the nation, the conference offered us a forum to share, and in some cases commiserate, about how we as hospice providers must adapt to the new reality created by the health care reform initiatives contained within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

The annual NHPCO meeting is also a time for sharing best practices with other providers and finding out what works and what doesn’t work in our operational approaches; ways in which we can learn to make ourselves more effective organizations.  However, overshadowing these numerous opportunities to learn remained the dark cloud of health care reform and the sundry list of unanswered questions we are facing as hospice providers.  The hospice movement has indeed come of age and we can no longer fly under the radar of reform.  Because of reform there is significant unrest among providers as we struggle to understand our place in Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and other new models of delivery that promote patient-centered care. 

The operational challenges of health care reform are daunting but the recognition of patient-centered care as the desired state of health care is noble.  This recognition actually validates what hospice has been all about since the inception of hospice care in this country (in the mid-seventies).  Hospice has always offered a team approach to care; a patient’s wishes are respected and the whole person is recognized.  To see the entire health care spectrum recognizing this new reality was both inspiring and energizing for our team. 

As our delegation departed Washington to return home, we said goodbye to the numerous colleagues we had shared time with during the week, and we left with a greater perspective and appreciation for what so many do across the nation to provide this vitally important service we call hospice.  Even though we returned home to stacks of unopened mail and unanswered emails, our time away was important as we prepare for our brave new world of the health care reform movement.

In addition to his many duties as HPCCR President and CEO, Pete is a member of the NHPCO National Quality and Standards Committee. 

Taking politics out of it

January 6, 2011

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Electronic Communications Manager

For the new health care law, the Obama administration recently deleted references to end-of-life planning conversations when detailing what can be covered under Medicare.  Just two weeks ago, the topic was on the table for discussion.

While the administration explained this omission as “procedural”, it seems more like a political move to me.  Another outbreak of “death panel” controversy could offer additional ammunition to opposers of the bill. 

It’s a shame that, as a society, we can’t be more open about the end of life.  Why is the topic of death so taboo?   We know that there is no magic elixir that will extend our lives indefinitely, right?  As long as there is a finite end to life, shouldn’t we want to ensure that our last days, months, and years are as comfortable as possible?

The good news is that Medicare patients and their doctors can still have these beneficial conversations during annual physicals.  And thanks to the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (which passed in 2008), those conversations will still be covered and doctors reimbursed for this very valuable service.  But the yearly annual exam is where it will have to happen.  It seems that (as of a few days ago) any separate appointments to discuss preferences at the end of life will not be covered under Medicare.

The bad news is that whenever this controversy raises its ugly head, it is even more apparent that our society is hesitant to discuss a very natural process in life.  Just like any other topic  introduced into the political playing field, sides must be chosen and stands taken.  Discomfort ensues.

I wish we could take politics out of it.  I wish we could quit worrying about who’s going to pay for it, and when they’re going to pay for it.  Making thoughtful decisions in advance and letting our loved ones know about them for our final journey is simply beneficial to us all.  Republicans and democrats alike.