Healthcare Policy Change: Making Our Voices Heard

healthcare policy change

From left to right: Jenna Paladino (Paladino Public Affairs), Liz Brown (Rep. Kathy Castor’s assistant) and Cheryl Hamilton (Chief Operating Officer, Chapters Health System)

Today marks the end of Virtual Hill Week, which is sponsored every year by the Hospice Action Network. This is a time set aside annually for people across the United States to virtually join the more than 230 advocates—physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, home health aides, volunteers and lobbyists—who converge on our nation’s capital for the Advocacy Intensive. Supporters made their voices heard in advocating for healthcare policy change on behalf of hospice and palliative care.

Healthcare Policy Change

This year’s advocacy efforts were focused on the Patient Choice and Quality Act (H.R.2797/S.1334) and the Rural Access to Hospice Act (HR1828/Senate980) to prompt healthcare policy change.

With bipartisan sponsorship from Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Phil Roe and Sens. Mark. R. Warner and Johnny Isakson, the Patient Choice and Quality Act outlines a palliative care model with the following benefits:

  • Builds a team approach to care featuring a doctor, nurse, social worker and palliative care specialist
  • Allows 24/7 access to care, which would include a care coordinator
  • Requires face-to-face visits with a nurse
  • Provides additional resources for education about advance care planning
  • Improves portability of advance directives, which specifically requires providers to follow an individual’s preferences, regardless of the state or care site

The Rural Access to Hospice Act also has support from both Republicans and Democrats  and is sponsored by Reps. Lynn Jenkins and Ron Kind, and Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Jeanne Shaheen. This bill corrects a glitch in the law and thus allows patients receiving hospice care through rural health clinics to keep their family physician. Patients wouldn’t need to forego the physician who might have cared for them for many years in order to access hospice care.

How Successful was This Effort?

healthcare policy change“Our efforts this year in Washington were quite successful,” said Jenna Paladino of Paladino Public Affairs, LLC, who represents Chapters Health System to the Florida legislature and Congress. “We gained bipartisan co-sponsorship for both the Patient Choice and Quality Act and the Rural Access to Hospice Act. With this type of healthcare policy change, patients benefit with improved and earlier access to hospice care and coordination. Our advocacy efforts were like the calm during a storm. There was no need for heightened emotions or a lengthy debate, as our efforts did not involve a budget request. We were able to demonstrate a need with a solution.”

With a dedication and willingness to speak out in support of hospice to decision makers, Chapters Health has a vital leadership voice on public policy serving the entire end-of-life care spectrum. “A healthcare organization has to identify pertinent issues, rally the troops,” said Ms. Paladino. “Chapters Health has a great network of supporters willing and able to educate our state and federal representatives on the benefits of hospice and why they need to support our issues.”

Living in the United States, it is hard not to notice that the healthcare environment is forever evolving—with changes taking place at both state and federal levels. Therefore, it is more important than ever for a community-based provider like Chapters Health to maintain a strong presence in both Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.

Everyone is an Advocate

Every day at Chapters Health and our affiliates—Good Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospice  and LifePath Hospice—physicians, nurses, volunteers and clinicians act as advocates for hospice and palliative care.

“They might not think of themselves as advocates, but just by virtue of the experience they’ve had and the stories they can tell, they have a strong impact on our elected officials,” shared Ms. Paladino. “Advocacy is an ongoing effort through which Chapters Health maintains a seat at the table with decision makers and community leaders.”

It’s important that elected representatives understand the many extra benefits and services a not-for-profit organization like Chapters Health provides that don’t fall under Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance reimbursement. These services are completely funded by our donors and include bereavement programs for children and adults, grief counseling for schools and employers and an open-access policy that allows patients who are receiving expensive treatments normally associated with curative care to benefit from hospice care.

“There’s been a seismic shift away from traditional ways to prompt healthcare policy change,” noted Ms. Paladino. “Today, community members can make a profound difference to public policy by sharing comments, photos and stories about hospice on social media rather than making phone calls or sending emails. Government officials recognize the power and reach tweets, retweets and posts make, and want to be accountable to their constituents back home. It is easier than ever to make our voices heard.”

At Chapters Health System, every day is devoted to educating our patients and keeping them in the place they call home. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients, young and old alike, and their families are able to make educated decisions about important healthcare matters. For more information, please call our helpful Chapters Health team at 1.866.204.8611 or send an email to info@chaptershealth.org

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Corporate Communications for Chapters Health System, manages all content and communications for the not-for-profit organization.

health care policy change

Top 3 Things to Know Today

The top three takeaway messages from hospice and palliative care legislation today are that it is vitally important to:

  1. Preserve the hospice benefit, i.e., the full package.
  2. Expand palliative care with awareness and education.
  3. Make it a priority as a family to have open discussion about end-of-life desires and wishes. Don’t wait for the government to intervene.

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