WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), ranking member and chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, introduced the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA). This bipartisan legislation would bolster the palliative care and hospice workforce and meet the growing need for care by investing in training, education, and research.
“The need for high quality palliative and hospice care services—which are vital for patients and their families—continues to grow, making passage of our bill needed now more than ever,” Ranking Member Capito said. “As a caregiver for parents that suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, I saw firsthand just how valuable these services can be. In order to preserve access to this care, our bill would strengthen training and education opportunities for individuals working in these fields. I look forward to working with Senator Baldwin and my colleagues in the Senate to pass this legislation.”
Palliative and hospice care focus on relieving patients’ suffering from serious illnesses and working to improve their quality of life. Medical research shows that palliative and hospice care have been associated with enhanced quality of life for patients, reduced hospital expenditures and lengths of stay, and longer patient survival time.
In 2001, just 7% of U.S. hospitals with more than 50 beds had a palliative care program, compared with 72% in 2019. Yet, not all these programs have in place the interdisciplinary team necessary to provide comprehensive, high-quality palliative care. Currently, one-third of palliative care clinicians are burned out and 40% are 56 years of age or older. The shortage of palliative and hospice providers will only continue to increase unless workforce investments are made. At the same time, a growing number of Americans are living with serious or complex chronic illnesses, leading to greater demands for caregivers. Within the decade, the U.S. will have more people over the age of 65, a group highest at risk for cancer and serious illness, than under the age of 18.
The legislation will help ensure America has the workforce to adequately treat patients and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans facing serious illness by focusing on three key areas:
- Workforce Training – Supports the training of interdisciplinary health professionals, including physicians, nurses, social workers, physician assistants, chaplains, and others in palliative care; supports the training and retraining of faculty; and provides students with clinical training in appropriate sites of care.
- Education and Awareness – Shares research and information with patients, families, and health professionals about the benefits of palliative care and the services that are available to support patients with serious or life-threatening illnesses.
- Enhanced Research – Directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to use existing authorities and funds to expand palliative care research to advance clinical practice and improve care delivery for patients with a serious or life-threatening illness.