Shaheen, Capito Introduce Legislation to Expand Access to Rural Hospice Care

April 12, 2019

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) yesterday reintroduced the Rural Access to Hospice Act, bipartisan legislation to improve seniors’ access to hospice care in rural America. The bill would remove a statutory barrier in current law that inhibits seniors’ access to hospice in rural communities across the country, allowing them to receive hospice care from their local trusted primary care practitioner.

“Granite Staters shouldn’t have to choose between giving up their physician and receiving hospice care,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bipartisan legislation will help ensure that rural patients in hospice care can have access to their physician. This will help make certain that these patients and their families can have the peace of mind that comes with continuing to see their trusted provider towards the end of life.”

“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 Senator Capito. “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. As someone who knows what it’s like to have a family member receive hospice care, I know how important this kind of compassionate care is, and I am committed to ensuring hospice care is available to all Americans—regardless of where they live.”

When Medicare patients enroll in hospice, they select a physician or nurse practitioner to serve as their provider. Unlike other services, 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.

In rural communities like those in New Hampshire and West Virginia, hospice care is underutilized. Only 32 percent of those eligible in rural areas utilized hospice compared to 48 percent in urban areas, according to a report from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC). For some patients, RHCs and FQHCs are their only source for primary care. The Rural Access to Hospice Act, which Senators Shaheen and Capito previously introduced in 2017, will enable patients to receive primary care from providers they know and trust and will promote the use of hospice care among rural beneficiaries.

More information on the Rural Access to Hospice Act is available here.

Bill text of the Rural Access to Hospice Act can be found here.