Representatives Lee Terry (R-NE) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) today introduced bipartisan legislation access to high quality health care. The bipartisan "Access to Medicare and Hospice Act," allows for physician assistants to care for Medicare hospice patients.
"Patients who are entering hospice deserve to have the peace of mind that they'll be able to depend on trusted health care they've previously received," said Representative Terry. "Whether it be from the physician or a physician assistant, our legislation will ensure that Medicare patients will be able to depend on this same quality of care they've come to know and trust when entering hospice."
"No matter who you are or where you live, everyone deserves access to high quality health care," said Thompson. "This legislation will allow Medicare patients to continue seeing the health care provider they know, are comfortable with, and that understands their health history. Entering hospice should not mean losing the health care provider a patient has come to depend on."
Often, physician assistants are the only health care professionals in many underserved areas. In 2010 alone, nearly 307 million patient visits were made to physician assistants. While Medicare coverage was originally extended to physician assistants through the 1977 Rural Health Clinic Services Act, the program was never updated to allow physician assistants to deliver hospice care. Under current law, physician assistants may provide care to Medicare patients - until hospice care is needed. At this point, Medicare patients must then find an alternative provider, disrupting the continuity of their care.
With this legislation, individuals and families who rely on physician assistants as their primary health care professional would be ensured continuity of quality medical care when patients move from the hospital to hospice care.
"I commend Representatives Lee Terry and Mike Thompson for introducing the Medicare Hospice Access Care Act," said AAPA President Robert Wooten. "The bill will increase access to quality hospice care for those relying on Medicare. Currently, physician assistants cannot provide hospice care for their terminally ill Medicare patients, and an undue burden falls on the patient and family to find alternative care. We cannot deny patients access to their "medical home' at a time when they are the most vulnerable."