WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the COVID-19 Hospice Respite Care Relief Act of 2020, bipartisan legislation that would expand Medicare’s hospice respite care benefit during a public health crisis. Specifically, the legislation would give the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) the authority to allow hospice patients to receive respite care at home and for longer periods of time during any public health emergency, including the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Under current law, Medicare covers short-term, inpatient, respite care services for hospice patients if their primary caregiver needs a break. Medicare will cover up to five days of respite care if the hospice beneficiary’s primary caregiver is ill, needs rest, or is otherwise unable to care for the hospice patient at that time. However, respite care may only be provided in an inpatient facility, such as a hospital, hospice facility, or nursing home, and the benefit is limited to just five days at a time.

The existing limitations on Medicare’s hospice respite benefit have made it difficult for family caregivers to utilize this important benefit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some families are reluctant to utilize the respite benefit because doing so would mean moving their loved one into a congregate living facility – such as a hospital or nursing home – where there may be a greater risk of contracting the virus. Additionally, some caregivers may need more than 5 days of respite care if they believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 and need to isolate for two weeks.

The COVID-19 Hospice Respite Care Relief Act of 2020 would allow the Secretary of HHS to make the hospice respite care benefit more flexible during any public health emergency, helping to meet the needs of both hospice patients and their caregivers by:

    · Increasing the number of days a patient can receive respite care from 5 days to 15 days, and

    · Making the hospice respite benefit available to hospice patients in their place of residence as an alternative to an inpatient setting.

“Respite flexibility for caregivers – who are more often than not, family members of hospice patients – provides a necessary break from a job that requires round-the-clock vigilance,” said Sen. Brown. “The best ideas don’t come from Washington, they come from hardworking Ohioans on the front lines every day. This idea was brought to me by hospice providers in Ohio, and I’m proud to introduce this legislation to provide them with the additional resources, flexibility, and support they need during this unprecedented pandemic.”

“The COVID-19 Hospice Respite Care Relief Act would provide some much needed flexibility for those providing, receiving, and depending on hospice respite care during this difficult time. I’m proud to join together with Senator Brown to introduce legislation that includes commonsense solutions like these, which are needed now more than ever as we all navigate our current reality,” said Sen. Capito.

“We are grateful that Senator Brown has seen the importance of supporting caregivers, who are the unsung heroes on the frontlines of healthcare,” said LeadingAge Ohio president and CEO Kathryn Brod. “COVID-19 demands new flexibilities, as caregivers themselves could become exposed or contract the virus. Expanding hospice respite care shows appreciation and respect for selfless caregivers, and ultimately allows the individual to remain in their home for their final days,” said Kathryn Brod, President and CEO of LeadingAge Ohio.

“Ohio’s Hospice greatly appreciates the legislation put forth by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and U.S. Sen. Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., regarding the use of respite care for hospice patients as defined in the hospice Medicare benefit. During the current public health emergency, as with all Americans, hospice patients and family caregivers have been subjected to the coronavirus and the risks associated with it. The language contained in the proposed legislation allows flexibility in the use of the respite level of care, and it will help maintain patient safety by allotting time for family and caregivers to respond to COVID-19 and its many concerns. This legislation will stretch a critical resource for hospice providers, allowing them to support a safer environment of care,” said Kent Anderson, CEO of Ohio’s Hospice and Amy Wagner, President, Ohio’s Hospice.

“Valley Hospice is privileged to provide hospice care to patients in both Ohio and West Virginia. Valley Hospice is grateful to Senator Brown and Senator Capito for introducing the COVID-19 Hospice Respite Care Relief Act of 2020. Passing this bill would provide a much needed expansion of respite care for hospice patients and caregivers during this COVID public health emergency,” said Cynthia Bougher, President and CEO of Valley Hospice.

“When the person who has stepped up to provide care to seriously ill hospice patients at home is not able to provide care because of their own illness, Hospices need the ability to provide respite support for longer and in the patient’s own residence. In these unprecedented times, five days is inadequate for family members to return to their caregiving roles. We need to give hospices who already have mechanisms to provide respite care more flexibility beyond the support already available to hospice patients and their families,” said Margaret Cogswell, CEO of Hospice of the Panhandle. 

Supporting Organizations Include: ElevatingHOME, the Hospice of the Western Reserve, LeadingAge, LeadingAge Ohio, the National Association of Home Care and Hospice, the National Hospice Cooperative, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the National Partnership for Hospice Innovation, Ohio’s Hospice, and the Visiting Nurse Associations of America.

 

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