Samira K. Beckwith, president and CEO of Hope HealthCare Services, participated in a U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging panel in Washington, D.C., May 21 that focused on end-of-life issues and how the private sector and government can be more responsive to patients and their families.

“Our health care system is excellent at managing acute episodic illness or injury, but there is great need to establish appropriate care systems for the number of aging boomers with advanced progressing illness,” Beckwith shared with the committee. “Hospice benefits need to be more accessible for individuals as they experience significant physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial burdens and become eligible for hospice care.”

The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging is chaired by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Fla.) with ranking member Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine).

Beckwith urged the committee to examine the nine significant regulatory changes in 2014 that occurred without coordinating policy changes or their implementation, and without considering the impact on patients and families. Administrative and regulatory burdens that present obstacles include the new Medicare Part D requirements, face-to-face requirement and a “one size fits all” approach across providers and patient populations that does not work for end-of-life care.

“The Medicare Hospice Benefit was designed to be flexible enough to meet the wide variety of needs and experiences that can be present in our vulnerable patient population,” said Beckwith. “These are the very aspects of the benefit that seem threatened now through the scrutiny on variations in length of stay, levels of care, setting of care and utilization of various staff on the hospice interdisciplinary team.”

Beckwith advocated for a national effort to increase hospice use during the last two years of life – instead of “misguided” efforts to reduce the length of stay – to reduce costs and improve patients’ quality of life.

Joining Beckwith in the “Continuing the Conversation: The Role of Health Care Providers in Advance Care Planning” roundtable discussion were: Carmella A. Bocchino, RN, America’s Health Insurance Plans; William Novelli, Coalition to Transform Advanced Care and McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University; Randall Krakauer, MD, Aetna; Daniel O’Brien, Ph.D., Ascension Health; and Paul Malley, Aging With Dignity. Jennie Chin Hansen, RN, of the American Geriatrics Society, moderated the panel.