Recently, Wyoming lawmakers have had to rush to begin the process of getting new laws, procedures and policies in place in preparation of the Affordable Care Act.
Though we’ve criticized lawmakers for not getting started on this earlier when it appeared the law would withstand a U.S. Supreme Court challenge, that is not to say there isn’t opportunity to make some changes that benefit citizens in Wyoming, even though outcome of the law still remains very much in doubt.
One of those areas that would be an example of doing something right as well as being a tremendous benefit is how the law is structured for inpatient hospice care, especially as it relates Medicaid in Wyoming.
November is national hospice month. And, a recent letter to the editor in the Casper Star-Tribune talked about the challenges of the Medicaid policy which doesn’t cover inpatient hospice care.
The reality: Wyoming is graying rapidly, meaning the population is getting older. That means more people will be making end-of-life decisions. As we talk about end-of-life care, more people are realizing the benefit of hospice programs. As the nation considers how to improve outcomes in the health care industry, end-of-life decisions and outcomes must be dealt with in a rational way. That is, Americans — Wyoming included — must have conversations about how it prioritizes its medical resources. Should every person be saved, even if his or her condition is chronic and the quality of life diminished?
Indeed, these are not easy conversations to have, but they are conversations that are happening more often.
Thankfully, hospice serves as an alternative to expensive and sometimes invasive and unsuccessful hospital care. That’s not to say the care isn’t good at hospitals, but for many folks with terminal conditions, no medical intervention will change the ultimate outcome.
Hospice is also about maintaining the dignity of the person and allowing families to participate in the death and dying process.
Currently in Wyoming, if a person wants and needs inpatient hospice, he or she must cover it out-of-pocket, even if they’re Medicaid eligible. End-of-life decisions are hard enough for individuals and families. They shouldn’t have to worry about something like scraping together funds just to ensure a comfortable dying process.
We believe in hospice. We also believe hospice is worth funding.
Medicaid will pay for skilled nursing facilities. It will pay for hospitals.
But those may not be the right venue for those who are dying with little to no chance of recovery.
Yet this isn’t a rooted in an emotional argument solely. Hospice care is often a less expensive route. While medical staff and equipment are still necessary in some cases, it doesn’t require the same staffing levels and it also doesn’t require a hospital or nursing home bed being tied up — each of which are resources that have a cost associated with them.
Because of the rapidly increasing popularity and its acceptance in society, we suspect the Medicaid issue is a case where the law just hasn’t caught up with the practice. Luckily, that can be changed.
As lawmakers begin to draft legislation about health care, this might be one of the more simple fixes. It might also be one of the better solutions that will pay nearly instant dividends.
We hope that some lawmaker can champion this fix. It seems like an opportunity to save Medicaid funds by allowing a cheaper option. More importantly, it seems like a way to lessen the burden of family and individuals as loved ones go through the dying process.
Oh, if every solution for our health care problems could be this simple.