Hospice care Medicare mandates would be modified under Balderson’s bipartisan bill

U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson (R-OH) on Monday proposed a bipartisan bill to better support hospice caregivers during the current pandemic and any future public health emergencies.

“Caring for a hospice patient is a full-time responsibility, so when a caregiver gets sick or is awaiting test results, it’s critical they have proper coverage,” Rep. Balderson said. “During the current public health emergency and any future public health emergencies, it’s important caregivers — oftentimes a patient’s family member — are able to fully recover and that end-of-life patients are not unnecessarily exposed to health risks.”

Rep. Balderson on Sept. 21 introduced the COVID-19 Hospice Respite Care Relief Act of 2020, H.R. 8322, with lead cosponsor U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), which would authorize the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to temporarily modify certain Medicare requirements for hospice care during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the congressional record summary.

If enacted, H.R. 8322 would allow the HHS Secretary to extend the current five-day limit for respite care coverage provided by Medicare to 15 days in the event a hospice patient’s primary caregiver is unable to provide care due to illness or isolation during a public health emergency, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Balderson’s office.

Additionally, H.R. 8322 would permit a change from current mandates that require patients eligible for Medicare hospice respite benefits to receive care as an inpatient and instead allow respite care to be provided in patients’ places of residence to reduce potential exposure to COVID-19, according to the summary.

“The pandemic has placed a heavy toll on the mental and physical health of hospice caregivers,” Rep. Shalala said. “This bipartisan legislation will help give caregivers the time they need to rest and recover during any future public health emergency and improve the care of hospice patients.”

U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in August introduced the same-named S. 4423 in their chamber.

The bill is endorsed by the National Association of Home Care and Hospice, the National Hospice Cooperative, the National Hospice, and Palliative Care Organization, among several other organizations.