April 30th, 2009

Chris Oleson, RN, director, Great River Hospice, recently joined about 450 hospice advocates from across the country in urging Congress to protect access to compassionate, high-quality end-of-life care for the 1.4 million patients and families who depend on hospice services each year. Capital Hill Day was part of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization's (NHPCO) annual meeting. Oleson is president of the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of Iowa board of directors.

During a meeting with Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, Oleson talked about the value of hospice care in Iowa and urged Congress to support efforts to stop cuts in Medicare hospice funding that threaten to close hospice programs across the county, particularly in rural areas.

"Capitol Hill Day was a great opportunity to share stories about how hospice provides high-quality and compassionate end-of-life care for Americans with life-limiting illnesses," Oleson said. "At a time when policymakers are looking for answers in the debate on health-care reform, this was a way for the hospice community to make a clear statement that hospice is part of the solution for patients and families, and is a model of cost-efficient and high-quality care."

Over the past year, NHPCO and hospice advocates nationwide have been working to overturn a 2008 regulation issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that eliminates a key component of the Medicare hospice reimbursement formula known as the budget neutrality adjustment factor. The hospice community secured a one-year moratorium on the funding cuts in the economic stimulus package signed into law earlier this year. But it ends Sept. 30, after which greater hospice funding cuts are possible. Oleson and other Capitol Hill Day participants urged lawmakers to permanently rescind cuts in Medicare hospice funding.

Oleson and other hospice advocates also attended a reception with lawmakers and staff at the new U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.