HOSPICE OF THE VALLEY AWARDED MEDICARE PROJECT

by Debbie Shumway, Executive Director, Hospice of the Valley

Hospice of the Valley is the only Arizona hospice selected to participate in a federal project designed to demonstrate that quality of life would be improved and healthcare resources conserved if hospice and palliative care was provided to patients at the same time as regular treatment from curative care physicians.

We believe that the comprehensive physical, emotional and spiritual care that clinicians and volunteers provide to patients and their families in their own homes will reduce pain and other symptoms. Hospice care – available round the clock – also prevents unnecessary hospitalizations and improves quality of life for those struggling with advanced disease.

Under current payment rules, Medicare beneficiaries are required to forgo curative care to get hospice care.

Hospice of the Valley will call the program MediCaring. Services began Jan. 1. About 150 patients are expected to be served daily.

Medicare calls the program the Medicare Care Choices Model. The federal agency chose to expand the project scope from 30 to 140 hospices and to extend the duration from three to five years due to intense public interest. Hospice of the Valley was assigned to the second group of participating hospices.

Participation in the project is limited to traditional Medicare beneficiaries with advanced cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure and HIV/AIDS.

Up to 150,000 people will be served nationwide, according to Medicare. Patients can continue to visit their specialty physicians, continue chemotherapy or radiation, dialysis, rehabilitation or short-term facility stays. However, they do not have to actively pursue aggressive care to participate in the program.

The program is only offered to individuals living in their own homes, not to group home or nursing home residents.

Once enrolled, participants can stay on MediCaring for three years or elect to go on hospice exclusively at any time.

Medicare’s goal is to find out if beneficiaries would elect to receive palliative and supportive care services typically provided by a hospice if they could continue to seek curative care from their providers. Medicare will study whether access to such services will result in improved quality of care, patient and family satisfaction, and whether there are any effects on use of curative services.

Information about MediCaring is available from community physicians and Hospice of the Valley by calling 602-530-6900.