U.S. Capitol dome

Legislation that would pave the way for more education and research into palliative care and hospice support is getting a thumbs up from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

On Thursday, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) reintroduced the Palliative Care Hospice Education and Training Act. The bipartisan team introduced a similar bill in 2019, but it stalled in Congress despite support from 55 senators and 280 representatives.

“Like other parts of the healthcare sector, hospice and palliative care providers are in the midst of a long-term staffing crisis that got dramatically worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach said in a press release. “PCHETA offers an important first step toward ensuring that we are developing the hospice and palliative care workforce of tomorrow, so we can continue offering the interdisciplinary, patient-centered, serious-illness and end-of-life care that Americans deserve.” 

PCHETA would help build a caregiver workforce more closely aligned with an aging nation facing serious illness by focusing on three key areas: workforce training that includes curricula, education centers and teachers with expertise in palliative care and hospice; extensive resources available to patients and families about palliative care and hospice; and enhanced research to improve the delivery of care to patients facing life-threatening illnesses. 

As caregivers to family members, both Capito and Baldwin said they understood first-hand the need for expanded palliative care and hospice education and services.

“Access to high quality palliative and hospice care services is vital for patients and their families,” Capito said in a statement. 

NHPCO and the National Association for Home Care and Hospice have been lobbying the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid for a payment model that would offer more expansive coverage of palliative care. Some private insurers and approximately 130 Medicare Advantage plans cover palliative care. Medicare Part B will pay for palliative care services provided by medical clinicians, but not for spiritual and emotional support traditionally included in palliative care services.