Congress Passes Legislation to Allow PAs as Hospice Attending Physician

The Senate voted today (2/8/18) on a major, two-year deal that sets budget caps for FY 2018 and FY 2019, and assures funding for Defense, Veterans, Disaster Relief, Combatting Opioids, and Infrastructure.  Even more importantly for our community, the Budget deal contains a package of Medicare related policies, including The Medicare Patient Access to Hospice Act, which would allow physician assistants to serve as the attending physician to hospice patients and perform other functions that are otherwise consistent with their scope of practice. This common sense, bipartisan legislation will go a long way to ensuring that patients can have their preferred care team at the end of life. NHPCO strongly supported this important legislation and applauds Congress for its inclusion in the Medicare/budget package.

The legislation also includes a provision that reduces payments to hospitals upon transfer to hospice. While the cuts are to hospital payments, NHPCO raised concerns with policymakers that financially penalizing hospitals could result in delays to hospice admission.  To assess the impact of the change, the legislation calls for the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee (MedPAC) to measure the policy’s effect on hospital-hospice transfers, hospice length of stay, and overall spending. NHPCO will continue to monitor this policy change to assure that patients and their families have timely access to hospice benefits.