Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hospices in Trouble -- Turn to Fundraising

According to a report published in this month's NonProfit Times, hospices across the country are being put on virtual life support as they face coming federal funding cuts (Michelle Donohue, Hospices Put on Life Support -- Fundraising Becoming More Important as Federal Cuts Loom).  The report reveals that hospice services are currently at risk as 3,000 Medicare-licensed hospices face slashed reimbursements in President Bush's 2009 budget proposal.

The report continues:

The budget proposal seeks to eliminate the hospice market basket for three years and reduce the update in the following two years by 0.65 percent, affecting the Medicare Hospice benefit reimbursement by more than $5 billion in five years. Another rule that would change, which does not require Congressional approval, is the technical way market basket rates are read, additionally impacting reimbursement by more than $2 billion. The regulations would also increase the time between on-site surveys, from its current six to eight years to 10 to 12 years.

Hospice reimbursement cuts would hinder quality end-of-life care that saves the Medicare system more than $2,300 per patient in the last year of life, according to a Duke University study published in Social Science & Medicine, and come when hospices expect more patients as the Baby Boomers age.

Almost every hospice in the country would be affected by the cuts, with some being more affected than others.

To address the coming crisis, hospices are planning to engage in more fundraising activities.  "If these cuts do happen, we're going to have to look at the community. We don't want patient care to suffer," says Patricia Morgan, Hospice Southeastern Connecticut's community development director, based in Norwich, CT.  Morgan continues: "[The cuts] will definitely put a strain on all hospice programs. We'll have to do more fundraising."

Meanwhile, Jonathan Keyserling, public policy and council vice president of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in Alexandria, VA, states that his organization continues "to have conversations with supporters, urging them to take a more rational approach to meeting the needs of those providing services to the dying in this country."  NHPCO estimates that 1.3 million people used hospice services during 2006 and the Medicare Hospice benefit covered more than 80 percent of patients.

Echoing the call for increased fundraising,Christine Stockley, development director for Attleboro, MA-based Community VNA, says that Memorial donations make up "a significant portion of gifts received overall" to hospices.  "Many people will give an immediate gift. For on-going support you need to make the case of why this organization needs to be supported on an on-going basis."



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