Hospice Training Bill Moves Forward in House

Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) and bipartisan co-sponsors have reintroduced the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (H.R. 647) in the House of Representatives.

This bill would provide funds to increase the number of permanent faculty in academic institutions that provide education and training for hospice and palliative care providers, with the ultimate goal of growing the workforce in those fields. Other provisions in the bill would create a national education campaign to promote the benefits of palliative and hospice care among health care providers, the public, and other stakeholders, and would expand National Institutes of Health research efforts on hospice care.

Several industry organizations have endorsed the legislation, including the American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network, the Alzheimer’s Association, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, and the American Heart Association. An earlier version of this bill passed the House in 2018 but did not come to a vote in the Senate.

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“Every one of us has been touched by serious illness,” Rep.Engel said. “My hope is that we can pass this bill again and get the Senate to act so that we will move one step closer to relieving the stresses of illness and tremendously improving patients’ quality of life.”

Workforce shortages have been a challenge for hospice companies in recent years as demand has grown. A study published in Feb. 2017 issue of the American Journal of Medicine projected a ratio of one palliative care physician for every 26,000 U.S. patients by 2030, with similar shortages for workers in other disciplines such as nurses, chaplains, and social workers.

“As a pharmacist for more than 30 years, I served as a pharmacy consultant for hospice care,” said Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.). “I saw firsthand the important impact that proper palliative care can have on patients and families going through incredibly difficult end of life decisions. This legislation ensures that there is a well-trained palliative care workforce available and ready for those individuals with serious illnesses.”