Woman wearing blue gown lies in bed with her hand resting on a blanket

The COVID-19 pandemic and changing policy perspectives in Washington are “supercharging” interest in palliative care, according to Davis Baird, government affairs director for the National Association for Home Care & Hospice.

“There is a broad recognition that palliative care as a concept is really good at hitting what many call the triple aim in healthcare: it improves patient and family outcomes, it improves care experience at the point of care, and really critically on the policy side, results in cost savings,” Baird said during a palliative care webinar sponsored by NAHC on Tuesday.

Momentum is building at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for a payment model providing more expansive coverage of palliative care, which provides specialized care for people living with serious illnesses. Palliative care includes not only medical care, but spiritual and emotional care as well. Roughly 130 Medicare Advantage plans offer coverage, as do many private insurance companies. Medicare Plan B will only pay for some palliative care services provided by doctors, nurse practitioners and clinical social workers.

SimiTree Healthcare consultant Maureen Kelleher said during the webinar that new Medicare value-based care models designed to keep patients out of hospitals and cut costs are paving the way for broader acceptance of palliative care by CMS.

“Medicare has been approving more palliative care enrollment applications since the beginning of our public health emergency,” Kelleher said. “In the first year, 2020, just about everybody who applied for enrollment with Part B for palliative care was approved and I’ve seen some (care) approved within a month.”

Baird said the biggest challenges to broader acceptance of palliative care by the insurance industry and by patients continues to be a lack of awareness of what palliative care is and a consistent definition of what it actually provides.

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