In recent years Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) has emerged as a champion for hospice policy and reform, but he will not seek re-election to Congress in 2024.
The Portland, Oregon native was first elected to Congress 27 years ago and later gained a seat on the influential Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Since then, he has sponsored a number of bills designed to improve the quality of hospice care as well as combat fraud in the space.
“For fifty years, I have served in elected office at every level — as state legislator, Multnomah County commissioner, Portland City Council member, and for 27 years as a member of Congress,” Blumenauer said in a statement. “It is a difficult decision. Particularly after the amazing success of the last several years. But simply said, it is time to continue my life’s mission without the burden of day-to-day politics.”
Blumenauer has co-led a number of bipartisan initiatives to improve program integrity within the Medicare Hospice Benefit, often in partnership with Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-Texas).
Last month, Blumenauer and Van Duyne were among four members of Congress that called on the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to delay the hospice Special Focus Program program to revise its algorithm for selecting providers.
He has also called for more lasting reform to the Medicare Hospice Benefit to ensure it continues to meet patients’ changing needs, including those with dementia.
“A lot has happened since the [Medicare Hospice Benefit] was first initiated. It’s played a critical role in helping people be able to deal with the most difficult times,” Blumenauer previously told Hospice News. “As you see the health needs change, we’re finding out in terms of the explosion of issues dealing with dementia that we’ve got work ahead of us in terms of being able to modify the benefit structure, making it more effective and meeting the needs of patients.”
Throughout his career, Blumenauer sponsored legislation that would allow end-of-life patients access to psychedelic therapies, reduce medication costs, improve quality measurement and expand access to advance care planning. He also wrote some sections of the Affordable Care Act.
In 2009, he introduced the Advance Care Planning and Compassionate Care Act, which was designed to educate clinicians and the public about hospice and palliative care, foster greater utilization of advance directives and allow for concurrent care for children.
Seven years later, Blumenauer sponsored the Personalize Your Care Act 2.0, which aimed to establish new models of care for serving seriously ill patients, including provisions aimed to improve awareness and utilization of hospice and palliative care.
In 2021, he joined other Ways and Means Committee members to urge CMS to establish a dedicated palliative care benefit within Medicare.
More recently, he has had his eye on hospice program integrity, seeking to address the rise of hundreds of fraudulent hospices concentrated in California, Arizona, Texas and Nevada.
Blumenauer and Van Duyne in February wrote to Brooks-LaSure to request a briefing on the agency’s efforts to combat fraud. He also participated in hearings with the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, on his department’s responses to these issues.
“The vast majority of people in the industry are committed to the principles and the practice and the delivery. There are, in fact, some outliers. We’ve watched people who’ve just abused the system and compromised the protections and services that have been given to some of our most vulnerable people,” Blumenauer told Hospice News in June. “There are people who are running hospice programs that are only theoretical. They’re not actually providing services to people, and they are bleeding money from the federal government.”