Even at the end of life, President Carter is being of service — and he is doing it by simply living.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization honored Carter at an event in Times Square in New York City on Thursday for his six-month anniversary on hospice. 

“Once again, leading by example, showing us how to embrace a stage of life that people don’t want to think about. People don’t want to talk about,” Ben Marcantonio, NHPCO COO and interim CEO, commented of Carter.

Marcantonio noted that Times Square is vibrant and full of life. It’s a place that people come from all over the country to visit, to do business, to celebrate, and it’s where people come from all economic classes, ages and races.

Such a location also reflects hospice, as it’s a type of care “that people from all walks of life can also choose,” Marcantonio said.

At a time when hospice is facing unprecedented criticism — both for fraud and for increasingly using more of Medicare’s coveted dollars — the event for Carter provided a much-needed public awareness campaign for the benefit. It is not unusual for someone to be on hospice for six months, but it’s approaching what is considered a long length of stay, which regulators increasingly are fixated on from a cost point of view. In response to this, a study by NHPCO and the National Association for Home Care & Hospice actually revealed that long lengths of stay saved Medicare money ini 2019. For patients who spent the last six months of their lives in hospice, Medicare spending was an average 11% lower than it was for patients who did not receive hospice care.

Hospice, which Carter helped create during his time as president from 1977 to 1981, is also struggling to attract beneficiaries, especially minorities who may not be aware of hospice. In that way, the Times Square analogy may be more of an aspirational concept.

All in all, Carter, who along with wife Rosalynn, devoted his life to helping others through such causes as eradication of Guinea worm disease, Habitat for Humanity and the presidency, appears to be the right person at the right time for hospice. The benefit is lucky to have him among its advocates.

Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at [email protected].