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New Medicare rate cuts affect hospice funding

Recently, more than 3,500 members of the hospice community sent a letter to President Obama asking for his immediate action to stop the Medicare rate cuts enacted by the previous administration. I was one of those people.

Hospice offers a dignified and compassionate way for a patient to spend precious time at home surrounded by loved ones at the end of life. Last year, more than 1.4 million Americans chose hospice, but access to this high-quality end-of-life care is being threatened by funding cuts set to begin in a matter of weeks. With hospice being a proven Medicare cost saver, these cuts will actually cost taxpayers more money than what the cuts were intended to save.

A study by Duke University found that hospice reduces Medicare costs by more than $2,300 per patient, amounting to more than $2 billion in savings each year. North Country Home and Hospice served 200 patients and families last year. Volunteers provided 2,000 hours of their time to help patients and families live! Hospice is the last best part of health care as we know it. Don't let it fall to cuts. I hear many times from families and patients, "I wish I had known about hospice sooner." If action is not taken by the Obama administration, hospice programs nationwide will be forced to scale back services or even close their doors permanently.

Congress issued a moratorium on these cuts earlier this year, but it expires on Sept. 30. That's why action to permanently eliminate the funding cuts needs to be taken now. In a time when policy makers are looking for models of high-quality and cost-efficient health care, they need to look no further than hospice.

But, to ensure that this compassionate and high-quality end-of-life care is available for future generations, we need to raise our voices and protest impending cut in services. Please speak up for those who can't by urging Obama administration to stop the hospice funding cuts.

Jesica Conrad