Hollis senator wants end-of-life care to be included under Medicaid

CONCORD – A Hollis Democratic senator’s proposal to include end-of-life care under Medicaid and save taxpayers’ money received strong support at its first public hearing Tuesday.

Sen. Peggy Gilmour founded the state’s first hospice and wants to end the state’s distinction as one of only two states that do not include a hospice benefit under Medicaid, the state and federal program of taxpayer-paid insurance for the poor, seniors and disabled.

New Hampshire does provide those benefits under Medicare.

The bill (SB 42) Gilmour wrote would create a committee to study the cost and benefits of hospice care and issue a report to the Legislature by the end of this November. “It works and it has proven in every reputable cost analysis to be cost effective,” Gilmour said in a statement.

Hospice care provides coordinated and comprehensive services to dying patients and their families, including home care, bereavement counseling, pain management and symptom control. Some hospice organizations also have facilities where they provide medical care and services to dying patients outside of a hospital or nursing home.

Shawn LaFrance of the New Hampshire Partnership for End of Life Care, said a Medicaid cost analysis report in 2000 found that 41 percent of the costs involved in caring for a dying patient without access to hospice ended up in an acute care in a hospital setting at far greater cost.

Others testified hospice provides the support that loved ones want for their terminally ill family member or friend.

“This is primarily a quality of life issue for the patients and their families,” said Peter Ames of the American Cancer Society that supports the bill.