How Former President Carter Helped Shape Hospice Care

Hospice News | By Jim Parker

As Jimmy Carter marks his sixth month in hospice care, the provider community is raising awareness by saluting the former president.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) convened a group of hospice leaders at Times Square in New York City to commemorate Carter’s hospice experience. Some hospice executives have said they believe that his example will prompt more Americans to learn more about this form of end-of-life care.

“Once again leading by example, [the Carter family] is showing us how to embrace a stage of life that people don’t want to think about — that people don’t want to talk about,” NHPCO COO and interim CEO Ben Marcantonio said at the Times Square event. “They’re showing us how hospice helps patients live life to the fullest to the end of life, and that’s why we’re gathered here today to publicly thank President Carter and his family.”

The Carter Center, a nonprofit human rights and health organization founded by the former president and his family, announced in February that he would enter hospice care in a brief statement.

Hospice is indelible to Carter’s legacy as president. The federal payment model demonstration that led to the founding of the Medicare Hospice Benefit began during his tenure in the White House.

The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) in 1979 launched the demo with 26 providers in 16 states to establish a clear definition of hospice as well as assess the cost-effectiveness of those services. HCFA was later reorganized as the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

The benefit’s founding catapulted hospice growth. In 2021 alone, more than 1.7 million Medicare decedents received hospice care, CMS reported.

“The hospice approach is different from any other approach in health care, and we’re so lucky for that,” Jacqueline Lopez-Devine, chief clinical officer for Gentiva Health Services, said in Times Square. “We put patients and their goals at the center of the plan of care. And with that approach, we’re able to help people live their lives as they would want in the last weeks and months of their lives.”

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