Building on more than 35 years of working to ensure seniors are getting the best possible health care, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has introduced legislation to improve the recently recognized medical specialty of palliative and hospice medicine to help seniors and those with serious or chronic illnesses better manage their pain and improve their quality of life.
Palliative and hospice care focuses less on curative treatment of a specific disease and more on relieving and preventing patients' suffering. Those palliative and hospice providers work with the patient and their families as a team to try and determine their needs and goals in dealing with their illness. Over the last 10 years, the number of hospital-based palliative care programs has more than doubled, but the number of providers available to fulfill the needs of these patients has not kept pace. With approximately 10,000 seniors turning 65 every day for the next two decades more needs to be done to make sure all options are available for those dealing with a serious illness
Wyden's bill -- the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA) -- focuses on training for new and existing doctors, those who teach palliative care, and other providers who are part of the palliative care team. It also provides academic and career awards to incentivize practice and study of palliative and hospice care.
"Gaps in the workforce continue to limit access to hospice and palliative care for many Americans," Wyden said. "Right now, there are simply not enough well-trained doctors to handle the overwhelming need for specialized treatment coordinated with patients, their families and across all their healthcare providers. By improving the training in these areas and incentivizing the study and practice of palliative and hospice care, more patients suffering from serious illnesses will be able to have access to care that will improve their quality of life."
The legislation focuses on three key areas to grow the palliative care and hospice workforce:
· Education centers to expand interdisciplinary training in palliative and hospice care
· Training of physicians who plan to teach palliative medicine and fellowships to encourage re-training of mid career physicians
· Academic career awards and career incentive awards to support physicians and other health care providers who provide palliative and hospice care training
A version of this bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY).