House Subcommittee Hearing to Highlight Critical Need for Palliative Care

September 8, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – September 8, 2016 – The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing today on H.R. 3119, the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA), is a major step forward in advancing quality of life for cancer patients, survivors and their families.

The palliative care legislation would increase federal research on palliative care and pain and symptom management; enhance training for nurses, doctors, and other health care professionals to practice palliative care effectively; and establish a national public education and awareness campaign to educate patients and health care providers about the availability and benefits of palliative care.

R. Sean Morrison, M.D., director of the Hertzberg Palliative Care Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and a leading palliative care researcher and clinician, will provide expert testimony in support of the bill. Dr. Morrison will also be representing the Patient Quality of Life Coalition, a group of over 40 patient, provider, and health system organizations dedicated to improving quality of care and quality of life for adults and children with serious illness. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) was a leading member in founding the coalition in 2013.

Dr. Morrison will make the case that medical care for the seriously ill is characterized by inadequately treated physical distress; poor communication between doctors, patients, and families; enormous strains on caregivers; and escalating health care costs. Passage of PCHETA would significantly improve this situation for patients, survivors and caregivers.

“This legislation calls attention to the critical need for cancer patients and survivors to have access to supportive care that treats the whole patient, not just their disease,” said Chris Hansen, president of ACS CAN. “Expanding access to palliative care is key to helping transform the way we treat patients with cancer and other serious illnesses. It improves their quality of care, sometimes prolongs life, and saves the health system money.”

Palliative care is a team-based approach that can be provided alongside curative treatment from the point of diagnosis of serious diseases such as cancer through treatment, survivorship and onward. This type of coordinated care improves quality of life for both patients and their families by addressing their pain, and symptoms including shortness of breath, nausea, anxiety, and other debilitating problems caused their disease and their sometimes their treatment.

The National Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel released its recommendations earlier this week including a call for the need to improve symptom care for cancer patients and survivors.

PCHETA currently has 191 House cosponsors, including strong bipartisan support from more than half the members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its health subcommittee. Companion bipartisan legislation (S. 2748) is pending in the Senate.

“On behalf of cancer patients and survivors and their families, ACS CAN and its volunteers across the country have worked over the past five years to educate lawmakers and the public on the value of palliative care in improving patient quality of life,” Hansen said. “Next week, more than 700 cancer patients, survivors, and ACS CAN advocates from nearly every congressional district will travel to Capitol Hill to urge their Members of Congress to advance this legislation. ACS CAN looks forward to working with Members of Congress to move this critical legislation forward.”

Jill Courtney or Alissa Crispino
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Phone: 202-585-3278 or 202-661-5772
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

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