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Op-Ed: Hospice, the best-kept secret in US healthcare

From The Charleston Gazette-Mail:

By Malene Davis

On Friday, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care will host a reception and fundraiser, where guests will learn more about the many ways WVAHC advocates for greater access to health care for all Mountaineers.

Malene Davis
Malene Davis

As a West Virginia native, I know how many in our state struggle with issues related to access, which is why I am so proud to be the featured speaker at the event and to have an opportunity to discuss my personal and professional passion: increasing access to compassionate hospice care for all those who need it.

More than 30 years ago, Congress recognized the unique needs faced by those nearing the end of their journey in this life and created the Medicare Hospice Benefit, a program that provides for hospice services nationwide and is administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

We are grateful that a vast majority of hospice care is provided at no cost to patients and families thanks to the foresight of congressional leaders. Capital Caring, the largest and oldest hospice and palliative care provider in the mid-Atlantic region, served as a hospice demonstration project in the early 1980s and is proud to remain partners with the CMS as we seek to provide — and measure the outcomes of — world-class care offered to those living with advanced illness.

We at Capital Caring, with our colleagues at West Virginia Caring, will continue to advocate with leaders at the CMS to ensure the hospice benefit is administered with uniformly high standards, adhering to the intent of the benefit, throughout every community, and that reimbursements are paid in a timely manner for services provided by adherent hospice care programs.

We must all work together to recognize that palliative care during all phases of serious illness is an essential component of healthcare.

At Capital Caring and West Virginia Caring, nearly all of our patients report significant pain reduction within 48 hours of coming into our care, thereby allowing them to spend time focusing their attention on friends, family and loved ones.

While a vast majority of our care is provided in our patients’ homes, we recognize that home is not always an ideal environment. Capital Caring offers more than 50 acute-care inpatient beds in Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia; these beds are located in facilities that provide 24/7, round-the-clock care to our patients whose symptoms cannot be managed at home. And our innovative TeleCaringTM program, also offered by West Virginia Caring to all of its patients, consists of twice-daily proactive calls to each patient’s home so we are aware of any needs that might arise, even when our clinical teams are not present.

With nearly 75 years of combined experience, Capital Caring and West Virginia Caring have always focused on simply improving care for each of the moms and dads (and kids) we care for every day. While we focus on alleviating pain, anxiety, breathlessness and all causes of distress, we also equip families and loved with the tools they need to feel confident in their own ability to comfort their loved ones.

With the continued support of our friends in Congress, at the CMS and medical professionals from coast to coast, we look forward to many more decades of simply improving care for our neighbors.

— Malene Davis is president & CEO of Capital Caring. She is the featured speaker during the West Virginians for Affordable Health Care organization’s annual reception and fundraiser, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, at the University of Charleston’s ballroom. Smith is a native of West Virginia.

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