Congressman Panetta Introduces Helping Our Senior Population in Comfort Environments (HOSPICE) Act

February 10, 2020
Press Release
Bipartisan Bill Requires Additional Oversight and Transparency of Medicare Hospice Providers

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20) and Congressman Tom Reed (R-NY-23) introduced the bipartisan Helping Our Senior Population in Comfort Environments (HOSPICE) Act, legislation to require additional oversight and transparency of Medicare hospice providers. 

In July 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG) released two reports that identified significant deficiencies in the quality of care delivered to Medicare hospice enrollees.  According to the OIG’s two reports, 87 percent of hospices had at least one care deficiency between 2012 and 2016.  Twenty percent had at least one serious deficiency, meaning that the health and safety of a beneficiary were in jeopardy or the hospice was limited in its capacity to deliver adequate care.  Currently the only remedy to penalize a poor performing hospice is removal from the Medicare program.  The OIG issued a series of recommendations for the improvement of quality in hospice care, many of which are addressed in this bill.

To improve the hospice benefit and protect vulnerable patients, the HOSPICE Act would achieve parity with other post-acute care settings by providing HHS with remedies to oversee and penalize hospices that provide poor quality care, improve surveys and surveyor education, and  increase transparency for patients and caregivers including requiring states to maintain a toll-free hotline for hospice patients and their families to report abuse and neglect.

"Hospice patients, family members, and caregivers should have the confidence that their hospice is a safe environment during an already difficult time.  My bill will provide for improved transparency to give a clear-eyed view of the quality of care provided by all hospices," said Congressman Panetta.  "Most hospices are compassionate caregivers who are deeply concerned for their patients and families.  But, there are some that can neglect and even abuse patients.  This bipartisan legislation will hold those bad actors accountable, enhance the integrity of the entire hospice program, and improve the quality of care for patients in the last stages of life."

"When my mother became sick, there was nothing I wouldn’t have done to cure her, but she taught me that what truly mattered to her was comfort and time spent with her family. Surrounded by a wonderful team of hospice care providers, we watched as her wishes were met. However, we must hold bad actors in the caregiver community accountable, and I am proud to co-lead this legislation to demand additional oversight and transparency of Medicare hospice providers," said Congressman Tom Reed.

Congressmembers Panetta and Reed are members of the Ways and Means Committee, which has sole jurisdiction over the hospice benefit.