“Fiscal Cliff” discussions and its impact on hospice and palliative care

  • Published: January 24th, 2013
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By Kristina Berwyn-Shaw,  Public Policy Committee Co-Chair

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While the everyday politics of Washington, D.C. may seem far removed from caregivers’ living rooms, it was hard to ignore the overwhelming media speculation about the “fiscal cliff” that dominated news coverage as 2012 drew to a close. Fiscal cliff discussions encompassed many diverse issues, but two focused on topics that are of particular interest to caregivers and the hospice industry: possible cuts to hospice services and proposed changes to Medicare physicians’ payments.

For now, the recent fiscal cliff decisions did not impact the Medicare Hospice Benefit, which is provided to those living with a terminal illness. However, the nuances of the fiscal cliff can have an impact on how hospice programs operate since it does, and will continue to, affect economic conditions, locations and operations.   For instance, the Hospice Action Network, the public policy arm of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, noted the piece of legislation that addressed the “fiscal cliff” (Job Protection and Recession Prevention Act of 2012 – H.R. 8) that passed both the Senate and the House included two key provisions relative to hospice and palliative care:

  • The proposed implementation of the two percent across-the-board reduction associated with sequestration has been delayed until March 1, 2013.
    Note: “Sequestration” is a term commonly used in public policy debates and can be confusing to decipher. Simply put, it’s the practice of using mandatory spending cuts in the federal budget if the cost of running the government exceeds either an arbitrary amount or the the gross revenue it brings during the fiscal year. For further information on what sequestration and its reductions could mean for the hospice industry, we encourage you to read Hospice Action Network’s Fiscal_Cliff_Analysis.
  • A 27 percent cut to Medicare reimbursement scheduled to affect physicians has been delayed for one year.  Fortunately, hospice was not included in the $30 billion offset package for this provision so hospice physicians will likely not be impacted by this cut.

It is expected that Congress will continue to focus on large-scale economic issues and entitlement reform, which will likely include discussions about Medicare, throughout the next several months. San Diego Hospice’s Public Policy Committee knows that caregivers are stretched for time, but still want to know about important policy issues from Washington so they can be aware of how these decisions could trickle down to affect their families, resources and services. With this in mind, our goal is to connect caregivers with public policy news so you can be informed and engaged in public policy issues that impact hospice and palliative care.

For additional information on these and other issues, please visit the Hospice Action Network website and stay tuned for additional analysis and updates from San Diego Hospice’s Public Policy committee.

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