U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced new legislation – the Hospice Care Improvement Act – to address the lack of safety protocols and transparency in hospices across the country.

Following the release of reports in July from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) highlighting specific instances of patient harm in hospices and a lack of transparency to highlight potential patient abuses and facility deficiencies, this legislation would act on recommendations from HHS, patients, and industry experts to ensure patient safety.

The bill would seek to improve oversight and accountability in the nation’s hospices by focusing on improving patient awareness of hospice abuse and by ensuring that hospices remain responsible for the care that they provide to patients. The proposed bill would publish hospice survey results for patients, increase survey frequency, improve educational materials and opportunities for hospices and surveyors, and establish penalties for bad actors in a manner commensurate with existing penalties for other providers, like nursing homes and home health agencies. Congressmen Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Congressman Tom Reed (R-NY) are leading the effort on similar legislation in the House.

The text of the bill is available at www.portman.senate.gov/sites/default/files/2019-11/GOE19A43.pdf

“Families in need of hospice care should be able to concentrate on the comfort and care of their loved one without the worry of unacceptable safety and medical standards,” said Senator Cardin. “The OIG and DOJ reports, coupled with HHS and stakeholder recommendations gave us a path forward that will increase transparency and patient safety, as well as increase the peace of mind and respect that should be ever present during hospice care.”