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Blumenthal Introduces Bill to Improve End-of-Life Care

The Compassionate Care Act would help Americans make end-of-life and advance care plans to ensure their wishes are followed

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced legislation to promote advance care planning and end-of-life care to ensure patients get the care they want and that is right for them. Few Americans have plans in place in case they become severely ill, but due to the pandemic, more Americans of all ages are thinking about end-of-life care and seeking advice on advance care planning. The Compassionate Care Act would provide federal support to educate patients and providers, develop core end-of-life quality measures, and expand access to advance care planning via telehealth.  

“This bill will help Americans have the difficult but necessary conversations about end-of-life care,” said Blumenthal. “The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded Americans of all ages of the importance to have a plan in place in case of severe illness or death. By promoting end-of-life care through public awareness, expanding telehealth services, and working with physicians, we can ensure that not one more person is robbed of making critical life or death decisions for themselves during this pandemic and beyond.”

Among other provisions, the Compassionate Care Act would:

  • Establish guidelines for advance care planning between health providers and patients;
  • Launch a National Public Awareness Campaign that would encourage patients and providers to make end-of-life plans;
  • Direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop education resources for providers to engage with patients, work with providers, state boards of medicine, and clinical associations to develop advance care education resources, and solicit feedback from providers and develop quality measures;
  • Improve access to advance care planning by expanding telehealth options for providers and patients; and,
  • Facilitate a study on a national advanced care planning registry that would allow patients to transfer their advanced directives from state to state.

This legislation has been endorsed by more than a dozen health care organizations, including Compassion & Choices, the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC), National Partnership for Healthcare & Hospice Innovation (NPHI), National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), American Heart Association, and the Connecticut Long Term Ombudsman Program.

“The coronavirus pandemic underscores the need to improve our advance care planning policies so that doctors and families are not put in the devastating position of having to make uninformed life-altering care decisions,” said president & CEO of Compassion & Choices Kim Callinan, the nation’s largest and oldest end-of-life care advocacy organization. “We will work with Senator Blumenthal to secure congressional support to pass this crucial legislation, which would increase the likelihood that patient preferences, not provider bias, determine the care one receives at life’s end.” 

“As the country continues to face the spread of the Coronavirus, advance care planning and palliative care is more important than ever,” Executive Director of C-TAC Jon Broyles. “We applaud Senator Blumenthal for his legislation, which will help ensure access to advance care planning conversations and high-quality serious illness care, especially for the sickest and most vulnerable among us. By creating innovative training and education supports on these issues, The Compassionate Care Act will help prepare and equip the provider workforce to always keep patients and their families at the center of their care.”

“The advanced and serious illness, palliative care, and hospice community have always been at the forefront of meeting the needs of those who are most vulnerable and their families and caregivers,” said NPHI President & CEO Tom Koutsoumpas. “The current pandemic has only served to highlight how critical it is to further support these providers and models of care. On behalf of NPHI, we would like to thank Senator Blumenthal for his continued leadership in offering these supports, especially through the Compassionate Care Act. This bill will truly make a difference in supporting community-based, not-for-profit hospices across the country as we look to tackle the impact of the pandemic and beyond, particularly through the expanded use of telehealth.”

“The Compassionate Care Act would help ensure patients receive the kinds of care they want when facing serious illness and the end of life,” said NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach. “We applaud Senator Blumenthal’s leadership in advancing access to vital advance care planning, which centers the role of the patient and family in end of life care decision-making.”

“The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) applauds Sen. Blumenthal (D-CT) for his longstanding support of patients and families facing advanced and terminal illness, and for his recent introduction of the Compassions Care Act,” said NAHC President Bill Dombi. “Advance care planning is essential to ensuring that an individual’s care preferences are understood and honored during serious illness and at the end of life.  The Compassionate Care Act, if enacted, would create a valuable national infrastructure to support broader public understanding of the importance of advance care planning, increase the availability of education for practitioners and develop guidelines and quality measures for effective advance care plans. In short, the legislation provides a thoughtful, comprehensive, and responsible framework for improving our nation’s approach to advance care planning.”

“Consumer awareness of the importance of advance care planning as well as an understanding of the array of care options at the end of life is critical, a truth we have only seen magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said President and CEO of LeadingAge and Acting President and CEO of Visiting Nurse Associations of America and ElevatingHOME Katie Smith Sloan. “This important legislation provides much-needed resources to develop educational programs, initiatives and strategies for both consumers and providers that will ensure greater access to and understanding of advance care planning and end-of-life care. LeadingAge and our partners, the Visiting Nurse Associations of America and ElevatingHOME are pleased to support The Compassionate Care Act. We thank Senator Blumenthal for his work on this important legislation and look forward to working with him on advancing these important priorities.”

“It is incredibly important that all individuals have the ability to receive end-of-life planning resources and have the right to direct their health care decisions,” said Connecticut State Long Term Care Ombudsman Mairead Painter. “The reintroduction of the Compassionate Care Act would support efforts to assure individuals that their right to decide for themselves would be honored by those entrusted to their care. Promoting an open dialogue among health care providers, residents, and families regarding the options available during this phase of life will improve the overall quality of end-of-life care for all.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put our country through a stress test on many levels,” said Executive Director of the Connecticut Center for Patient Safety Lisa Freeman. “It has also overwhelmingly and disproportionately impacted individuals with complex and serious illnesses in terms of medical complications and higher death rates. The Connecticut Center for Patient Safety represents the patient voice and promotes patient safety and high-quality health care.  The Compassionate Care Act addresses and helps close the disparity that COVID-19 has highlighted amongst our more vulnerable populations.  We thank Senator Blumenthal and his colleagues who are supporting this critically important legislation.  ”

The full text of the legislation can be found here and the summary can be found here.