[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced bipartisan legislation to help improve end-of-life care. Open communication with qualified health care providers and loved ones as well as clear documentation of end-of-life wishes are essential to ensuring people receive the care they desire. Yet, research shows only 23 percent of people put their care directives in writing and 90 percent said that their physician never asked about this issue.
The Compassionate Care Act aims to address these issues by providing federal support to educate patients and providers, develop core end-of-life care quality measures, and test innovations in advance care planning via telemedicine.
“Talking about end-of-life wishes is a sensitive, personal, and difficult conversation,” Blumenthal said. “It can be heartbreakingly hard to know what to say or when to say it. You may be waiting for your loved one or your doctor to bring it up first. But these critical conversations are essential to ensuring that we all receive the care that we want and that is right for us. This bipartisan legislation will help open the lines of communication to improve end-of-life care for all Americans.”
“Those in the final stages of life should have access to the compassionate care that hospice provides, yet physicians have reported difficulty in addressing these end of life conversations,” said Senator Capito. “The Compassionate Care Act helps to alleviate those challenges by supporting training for health care professionals and increasing awareness about what hospice care options are available. If we can increase our understanding of hospice care, more patients and loved ones can experience the comfort that hospice provides.”
“C-TAC applauds Senators Blumenthal and Capito on the development and introduction of the Compassionate Care Act,” said Bill Novelli, Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC), Co-Chair. “This important legislation will provide critical support to educate consumers and providers alike on all aspects of advance care planning, in addition to developing quality measures and furthering innovations in tele-health. This legislation is an important step forward in improving advanced illness care for all Americans. We thank the Senators for their leadership and we look forward to the passage of this legislation.”
“As a nation, we are uncomfortable talking about death, but it’s one of the most important conversations a person can have with their physician. Osteopathic physicians are trained to partner with their patients to help them define their treatment goal, and this legislation reflects the growing understanding that patients should have a say in the medical interventions they receive in their last days and offers resources to help them make their wishes known,” said John W. Becher, DO, president of the American Osteopathic Association.
The Compassionate Care Act contains three key elements:
- 1. Consumer Education:
- Develops and implements a National Public Education Campaign to raise awareness of palliative and hospice care and encourages individuals to speak with qualified health care professionals about their options and intentions for end-of-life care.
- 2. Provider Education:
- Establishes a pilot program in advance care curricula that will allow qualified health care providers to further develop their skills on how to discuss and help patients and their loved ones with advance care planning.
- Supports the expansion and development of continuing education programs on advance care planning and end-of-life care.
- Supports the development of core end-of-life quality measures across each relevant qualified health care provider setting.
- 3. Supports Innovation:
- Establishes a demonstration project to reimburse eligible entities for costs associated with the use of telemedicine services to provide advance care planning.
- Directs the HHS Secretary to conduct a study on the establishment and implementation of a national uniform policy on advance directives.
- Supports a GAO study and report on establishment of national advance directive registry.
The Compassionate Care Act is supported by the following organizations:
- The Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC)
- American Osteopathic Association
- The Pew Charitable Trusts
- Elder Justice Coalition
- American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging
- National Partnership for Hospice Innovation
- Visiting Nurse Associations of America
- National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
- American Heart Association
- National Association of Home Care & Hospice
- CT State Department on Aging