Patients of Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics are unable to keep their physician when they elect to begin hospice services. This law prohibits physicians at these clinics from serving as the hospice attending physician, a restriction that does not exist for any other health care providers.
Therefore, at their most vulnerable time, these patients are cut loose from their trusted physician and must find a new practitioner to serve them as they enter hospice. This is an unreasonable burden to place upon a fragile patient and their family, and damages the important patient-physician relationship at a critical time.
Additionally, Federally Qualified Health Centers are generally considered “safety net” providers who provide health care to traditionally underserved communities. Rural Health Clinics similarly provide care in rural and frontier areas, where they are frequently the only provider for miles. Therefore, it is imperative these clinics, who reach some of our most vulnerable neighbors, be able to continue serving their patients when they elect hospice.
I hope our community, and our members of Congress, will recognize the burden this problem causes to vulnerable patients and families, and act quickly to enact the Rural Access to Hospice Act. No American should be prevented from accessing quality end-of-life care due to their demographics or Zip code.