More than 30 years ago, Congress recognized the unique needs faced by those nearing the end of their journey in this life and created the Medicare Hospice Benefit, a program that provides for hospice services nationwide and is administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). As we recognize and celebrate National Hospice Month throughout November, we are grateful that a vast majority of hospice care is provided at no cost to patients and families thanks to the foresight of Congressional leaders. Capital Caring, the largest and oldest hospice and palliative care provider in the mid-Atlantic region, served as a hospice demonstration project in the early-1980s and is proud to remain partners with CMS as we seek to provide—and measure the outcomes of – world-class care offered to those living with advanced illness. We at Capital Caring will continue to advocate with our colleagues at CMS to ensure the hospice benefit is administered with uniformly high standards, adhering to the intent of the benefit, throughout every community, and that reimbursements are paid in a timely manner for services provided by adherent hospice care programs.

Further, as we recognize National Hospice Month, we must all work together as providers, government leaders, and payers to recognize that palliative care during all phases of serious illness is an essential component of healthcare. At Capital Caring, 98 percent of our patients report significant pain reduction within 48 hours of coming into our care, thereby allowing them to spend time focusing their attention on friends, family, and loved ones. While a vast majority of our care is provided in our patients’ homes, we recognize that home is not always an ideal environment, and we are proud to offer more than 50 acute care inpatient beds in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia; these beds are located in facilities that provide 24/7, round-the-clock care to our patients whose symptoms cannot be managed at home. And our innovative TeleCaringTM program consists of twice-daily proactive calls to each patient’s home so we are aware of any needs that might arise, even when our clinical teams are not present.

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End-of-life conversations are often difficult, but Capital Caring is taking advantage of the occurrence of National Hospice Month to encourage families and physicians to have these conversations before a crisis occurs. As the organizational home of the Virginia POST (Physicians Orders for Scope of Treatment) Program, Capital Caring encourages our patients and their families to work with their physicians to communicate their wishes for treatment preferences when a person is nearing the end of his or her life. POST forms are more specific than advanced directives and travel with a patient across care settings – for example, if a patient is transferred to a hospital from a nursing care facility. I encourage all those dealing with a chronic progressive illness, a terminal illness, or who care for seniors to speak with your physician to determine if a POST form is appropriate for you.

Since our founding in 1977, Capital Caring’s mission has been to simply improve care for the more than 1,400 moms and dads (and kids) we care for every day. While we focus on alleviating pain, anxiety, breathlessness, and all causes of distress, we also equip families and loved with the tools they need to feel confident in their own ability to comfort their loved ones. With the continued support of our friends in Congress, at CMS, and medical professionals from coast to coast, we look forward to many more decades of simply improving care for our neighbors.

Malene Davis is President & CEO of Capital Caring.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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