WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) this week helped reintroduce bipartisan legislation to address growing concerns about a shortage of palliative and hospice caregivers as the nation’s population grows older.

The Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA) (S.2243) would help ensure an adequate, appropriately trained workforce to provide pain and symptom management, intensive communication, and care coordination for those with long-term, serious, and complex chronic illness.

“It’s just logical that an aging population will result in a greater demand for hospice and palliative care,” Hyde-Smith said.  “This strong, bipartisan bill will help ensure that a sufficient and well-trained workforce is ready to serve patients and their families.  Additionally, this care can also help control some costs to our health care system.”

Palliative and hospice care focus on relieving suffering from serious illnesses and working to improve patients’ 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 lengthened patient life spans.

At issue is a growing shortage of palliative and hospice providers that will only continue to increase at the same time as more Americans live 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 people under the age of 18.

To begin addressing these challenges, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) reintroduced PCHETA, which would focus on three key areas:

  • Workforce Training – Support the training of interdisciplinary health professionals, including physicians, nurses, social workers, physician assistants, chaplains, and others in palliative care; support the training and retraining of faculty; and provide students with clinical training in appropriate sites of care. 
  • Education and Awareness – Share 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 – Direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 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.

S.2243 has been referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.  Additional cosponsors include U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kan.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Angus King (I-Maine), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Susan Collins (R-Maine). 

More than 90 national and state organizations support PCHETA.  A list of supporting organizations and what they are saying is available here.