Hospice of Southern WV Thanks Gov. Justice for Signing “Hospice Bill”

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Governor Jim Justice signed Senate Bill 537 into law Wednesday evening. This bill, which was unanimously passed by the West Virginia legislature, establishes a broad-based workgroup with a cross-section of experts to review the state’s current hospice standards and examine how they might be improved.

The 18-member workgroup of healthcare and hospice professionals will examine the current and future needs for hospice services and determine how the state’s hospice standards should be changed. The group will conduct public hearings in each of West Virginia’s congressional districts. Its final report would be due by September 30, and then the West Virginia Health Care Authority would have until December 1 to consider modifying standards and present proposed changes to the legislature.

“We are pleased Governor Justice signed Senate Bill 537 into law,” Janett Green, Chief Executive Officer of Hospice of Southern West Virginia, said. “This will permit a workgroup of healthcare professionals the opportunity to evaluate hospice standards and need methodology.”

Senate Bill 537 freezes hospice standards as they were on January 1, 2018, until changes could be considered. Last year, the Health Care Authority updated the standards it uses to grant certificates of need for hospice services and received approval from the governor for most of them. Left unresolved though was the threshold for permitting additional providers to serve each county, which could lead to an explosion of hospice providers in West Virginia. Too many hospice providers could dilute the support system and put some hospice houses at risk.

Currently, hospice services are available in every county, and some counties are served by more than one hospice. Hospice services provide compassionate, palliative care to individuals, usually within the last six months of their lives. About 93 percent of hospice patients in West Virginia are covered by Medicare or Medicaid, which pay at a fixed, daily rate.

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