Florida TaxWatch: Increased Access to Palliative Care a Win for Patients While Cutting Healthcare Costs

On Wednesday, Florida TaxWatch released a report showing that increased access to palliative care is a boost to patients while cutting healthcare costs.

“Palliative care, like hospice care, is the comprehensive management of the physical, psychological, social, spiritual, and existential needs of patients. While either hospice or palliative care may be the most appropriate care for an individual beginning at diagnosis – and hospice care provides additional benefits that are not part of palliative care that are unique and important for terminally ill patients – palliative care may be more appropriate for some patients and uniquely appropriate for others,” Florida TaxWatch noted as it showcased its report.

Samira Beckwith, the president and CEO of Hope Healthcare, is the chairwoman of the Florida TaxWatch Center for Health and Aging. She weighed in on the report on Wednesday.

“Expanding community-based palliative care could improve quality of life for patients and reduce healthcare spending for Floridians,” said Beckwith. “Palliative care cannot and should not replace hospice care and should not delay the provision of hospice care for eligible and appropriate terminally ill patients, but palliative care can serve both to provide services for those patients with chronic but not terminal conditions and serve a patient’s needs until hospice care is appropriate. The ideal interaction between palliative care and hospice is a seamless transition from palliative to hospice services.”

“Based on our research, it is clear that palliative care warrants special attention as a distinct and promising healthcare service,” said Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro. “With nearly one-half of American adults living with at least one serious condition or chronic illness, state policymakers should have a full understanding of how this could benefit all Floridians and take the expansion of palliative care under strong consideration.”

The report looks at the benefits of palliative care but also the challenges ahead for expanding it. Florida TaxWatch also offered some recommendations for the state Legislature which is currently in the second week of its regular session.

“The Legislature must develop a regulatory framework for palliative care,” Florida TaxWatch insisted. “For the state to realize the cost-savings benefits of palliative care, the payment/reimbursement system must be addressed.  To ensure the financial stability of palliative care providers, a system of care reimbursement that can be used by public and private payors must be developed, along with a definition of the services that constitute palliative care.

“The regulations must balance the competing interests of protecting patients from being harmed by providers that do not have the expertise or capacity to provide appropriate and comprehensive palliative care services and avoiding overly burdensome regulations that will stifle growth and expansion,” Florida TaxWatch added. “Additionally, the Legislature should invest in programs that increase training opportunities to address workforce shortages.  Like with many areas in healthcare and long-term care, workforce shortages are a major barrier to expansion of palliative care.  To address this issue, the Legislature should fund increased palliative medicine fellowships, provide incentives for palliative care fellows to remain in Florida, invest in expanding training programs for nurses, and fund internship opportunities.”

“The findings of this analysis clearly show that it is imperative for Florida policymakers to explore options to increase access to palliative care,” said Florida TaxWatch Executive Vice President Robert Weissert.

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