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It's become as common as patient charts and nurses' stations. Everyone has been talking about it for what seems like forever and very few truly understand it. As representatives in Washington work through the most significant health care legislation of our time, we are all trying to understand what health care reform really means to providers, insurance carriers and ultimately patients and their families.
In a quagmire of uncertainty, there is one sustainable fact that is built to last - hospice care relieves suffering, provides care, comfort and counseling and saves Medicare dollars. Even with this knowledge made available to legislators by hospices everywhere, the Hospice Medicare benefit still faces cuts.
Hosparus, a private nonprofit hospice provider serving Central Kentucky, Barren River, Louisville and Southern Indiana, estimates that the cuts could cost Kentucky and Indiana millions of dollars during the next 10 years. According to the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization, the national price tag is in the billions.
The quiet revolution is over. Too much is at stake for those we serve for Hosparus to remain a silent partner in the healthcare continuum.
It's our responsibility to act on behalf of those who need us most - dying patients and their families. We are working in tandem with healthcare partners, legislators, educators, business leaders and the community at large to build lasting relationships that focus on ensuring the long-term viability of hospice care in our community.
If it all still seems a bit far away to you, think about what our community would be like without Hosparus.
Imagine someone you love dying alone and in pain without the medications, supplies and medical equipment that Hosparus provides under the Medicare benefit. Imagine yourself caring for someone "24/7" without the compassionate care of a Hosparus nurse, nursing assistant, social worker, chaplain, grief counselor or volunteer. Consider not having anyone to call in the middle of the night when your loved one's pain is out of control and you are afraid.
In the face of proposed Medicare cuts and the rising cost of providing end-of-life care, Hosparus needs your community support more than ever.
Consider these facts:
Hospices provide compassionate care for those reaching the end of life, and they do it while saving Medicare an average of $2,300 per patient, according to an independent 2007 Duke University study. In 2007, those savings amounted to $2 billion.
Additionally, the Duke study found that Medicare costs would be reduced further for seven out of 10 hospice recipients if hospice was used for a longer period of time.
NHPCO reports that an estimated 41.6 percent of all people who died in the U.S. last year were under the care of a hospice program, (up from 38.8 percent in 2008 and 35 percent in 2007).
A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine showed that hospice and palliative care may prolong the lives of some terminally ill patients. In a 2007 study, the mean survival was 29 days longer for hospice patients than for non-hospice patients. In other words, patients who chose hospice care lived an average of one month longer than similar patients who did not choose hospice care.
Closer to home, some 98 percent of Hosparus patients surveyed say that they would recommend Hosparus to others as their choice for end-of-life care.
The human story. Hosparus patients and families tell us they couldn't make it without us. We are here to ensure that no family ever has to face the end of life without the benefit of hospice care.
Our patients and their families need your help. Find out how you can advocate for the Hospice Medicare benefit in your state by visiting www.nhpco.org. To learn more about Hosparus services, visit www.hosparus.org.