Bill Introduced to Expand Access to Hospice Care in Rural Areas

A new bill was introduced Thursday in the Senate to expand access to hospice care in rural areas.

Introduced by U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), the bill is designed to remove a statutory barrier in current law and allow people to receive hospice care from their local trusted primary care practitioner.

“In the final stages of life, it’s more important than ever to be able to receive care from a trusted physician in your own community,” said Capito in a statement. “The Rural Access to Hospice Act will make sure this critical service is available to West Virginians and others who call rural America home, providing them care and comfort at a critical time.”

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Under current law, rural health clinics (RHCs) and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) cannot bill Medicare under Part B for hospice services, which prevents some patients from receiving care from their trusted primary care practitioner.

The Rural Access to Hospice Act aims to level the playing field by allowing RHCs and FQHCs to receive payment for practitioners’ services while caring for their patients in hospice care.

According to data from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), only 32 percent of those eligible for hospice care utilize the service in rural communities compared to 48 percent in urban areas.

The bill will was originally introduced in 2017.