By Mr. SPECTER:
S. 421. A bill to impose a temporary moratorium on the phase out of the Medicare hospice budget neutrality adjustment factor; to the Committee on Finance.
Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I have sought recognition today to introduce the Medicare Hospice Protection Act, which will place a one-year moratorium on a final rule issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CMS, reducing payments to hospice providers and ensure Medicare beneficiaries' access to hospice care.
More than 1.3 million Americans depend on hospice for high quality and compassionate end-of-life care each year. Unfortunately, on October 1, 2008, CMS issued a final rule to reduce hospice reimbursement rates in Medicare. This reduction of the hospice wage index will take $2.1 billion out of hospice care for Medicare beneficiaries over the next 5 years.
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, MedPAC, is currently examining the payment system for hospice care. We must allow MedPAC to complete this important review of the hospice Medicare benefit and make payment recommendations, which is expected in 2009. The Hospice Protection Act, introduced by myself and Senators Harkin, Wyden, Roberts, and Rockefeller, will maintain access to hospice care for seniors.
Hospice is an efficient and cost-effective health care model. Hospice provides individuals at the end of their lives, as well as their families, with comfort and compassion when they are needed most. Hospice care enables a person to retain his or her dignity and maintain quality of life during the end of life. An independent Duke University study in 2007 showed that patients receiving hospice care cost the Medicare program about $2,300 less than those who did not, resulting in an annual savings of more than $2 billion.
In April 28, 2008, just before the Notice of Proposed Rule Making was released, a bipartisan group of more than 40 Senators wrote to Secretary Leavitt and asked him to stop further action and wait for MedPAC recommendations on hospice payment issues. On July 28, 2008, before the final rule was released, Senators Harkin, Wyden, Roberts and I wrote to White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolton, to urge him to stop the regulation from being finalized and to consider the burden that this regulation will put on the hospice community.
Access to quality compassionate hospice care is critical for Medicare beneficiaries. I ask my fellow Senators to join me in support of the Hospice Protection Act and to work toward its swift passage.
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