WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 22, 2017 – Bipartisan legislation (H.R. 1676/S. 693) introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate aims to reduce suffering and improve the quality of life of cancer patients and their families by better coordinating their care and addressing the often-debilitating symptoms of disease and treatment.
The “Palliative Care Hospice Education and Training Act” (PCHETA) supports the growing demand for palliative care, a specialized medical care that focuses on care coordination and relief from pain, stress and other symptoms of treatment for life-threatening diseases such as cancer. The legislation would facilitate and expand federal research into palliative care; support training for nurses, nurse practitioners and other allied health professionals to effectively practice palliative care; and establish a national palliative care public education and awareness campaign.
“This legislation would put in place the building blocks to make palliative care widely available to people with cancer and other serious diseases during and after treatment by expanding research, access and public awareness,” said Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “By removing barriers to palliative care, we can give patients and survivors more control over the full range of their care from the point of diagnosis.”
Palliative care represents a big shift in health care delivery because it improves the quality of care for seriously ill patients without increasing overall costs. Palliative care is appropriate at any age and any stage of a serious illness and can be provided at the same time as curative treatment. It is delivered by trained specialists who work together with doctors and nurses in a team-based approach that focuses on the patient’s needs, explains treatment options and gives patients and their families a voice in determining their treatment and care.
“From the moment of diagnosis, palliative care gives people with chronic illnesses like cancer and their families a voice in determining the overall goals of treatment, setting the specific course of care and managing symptoms,” said Hansen. “Millions of cancer patients suffer from pain, shortness of breath, nausea and other side effects from treatment without any awareness about the availability of the extra layer of support palliative care can provide to help relieve their symptoms, and provide them with a better quality of life.”
The PCHETA legislation is sponsored by Representatives Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), and Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.). This bill is supported by the Patient Quality of Life Coalition, an alliance of more than 40 organizations, including ACS CAN, dedicated to improving quality of care and quality of life for adults and children facing serious illnesses, survivors and their families.
Last Congress, PCHETA had strong bipartisan support with 234 House cosponsors and 20 Senate cosponsors. The bill also received a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing. ACS CAN is committed to working with members to rebuild strong bipartisan support for this critical legislation that will benefit cancer patients their families nationwide.