Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hospice Advocates to Congress: Protect Access to Compassionate & High-Quality End of-Life Care

/PRNewswire/ -- Today 450 Hospice Advocates from across the country took part in the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization's (NHPCO) Capitol Hill Day 2010 by meeting with their U.S. Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill and encouraging policy makers to preserve and protect access to compassionate, high-quality end-of-life care for all Americans.

Thousands of additional Hospice Advocates participated in NHPCO's Virtual Hill Day 2010 from their home communities by making phone calls and sending emails to their Members of Congress that furthered echoed the hospice community's message. NHPCO Hill Day and Virtual Hill Day participants emphasized the value of hospice in their communities and reacquainted Congress with the unique structure of the Medicare Hospice Benefit.

"In the aftermath of health care reform, NHPCO's Capitol Hill Day 2010 was just the beginning of our efforts this year to educate Members of Congress on the hospice community's value and uniqueness as compared with other health care provider groups. Over 1.4 million patients and their families depend on compassionate end-of-life care from hospice programs in communities throughout the country," said J. Donald Schumacher, NHPCO president and CEO. "It is important that Congress know the importance of hospice to their constituents so they can take an active role in preserving compassionate end-of-life care for generations to come."

Over the past two years, the hospice community has been facing rate cuts on two fronts -- regulatory cuts enacted in October 2009 that eliminated a key component of the Medicare hospice reimbursement known as the Budget Neutrality Adjustment Factor (BNAF) and more recently, cuts slated to be implemented in 2013 as a result of the health care reform bill passed last month. This year, Hospice Advocates are working together to educate policy makers on how the hospice community will be impacted by the combined 14.3% reductions.

"Two cuts are too much for the hospice community," Schumacher added. "If these cuts stay in place, services will be reduced, programs will suffer, and the dying won't get the care they need."

At the Hill Day kickoff pep rally, NHPCO demonstrated its on-going commitment to engage and rally Hospice Advocates nationwide to educate their Members of Congress about the hospice community. The program started with rousing words of encouragement and support from Congressional hospice champions, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR.) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-3rd-OR.). This year, Virtual Hill Day participants were able to watch the remarks live over the Web while simultaneously tweeting and Facebook chatting to each other and NHPCO staff in attendance.

The organization also unveiled the rebrand of its lobbying affiliate, The Alliance for Care at the End of Life (ACEOL). The ACEOL is now doing business as NHPCO's Hospice Action Network - the name originally coined for its interactive, online community earlier this year. Through social media resources such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the Hospice Action Network has already developed an ever-growing online advocate base of over [X] people from all over the country. In tandem with traditional outreach methods, these Hospice Advocates are using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to interact with each other, educate the general public and policy makers about the impact of health policy on hospices in their communities.

"We are very excited about the rebrand of our lobbying affiliate. The Hospice Action Network will have all of the strengths of the Alliance, but will also allow us to use innovative and interactive strategies to grow our advocate ranks nationwide. This new identity will allow our Hospice Advocacy efforts to evolve into a national grassroots movement. The Hospice Action Network will not only support professional lobbying on Capitol Hill, but also serve to enhance the important advocacy work that hospice providers are doing in the trenches back home," Schumacher said.

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