Today Congress passed a couple of changes to Medicare, the first of which allows physician assistants to manage and provide hospice care to terminally ill Medicare patients. President Trump signed the bill into law this morning.
The second allows PAs to supervise cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs under the Medicare program. Specifically, the new law modernizes outdated Medicare law with language specific to PAs in the Medicare Patient Access to Hospice Act.
The changes have been praised by the American Association of Physician Assistants, which said past restrictions have forced patients under the care of a PA to choose between continued care and hospice, The new law, the group said, allows for more continuity of care.
Those who stand to gain the most from the changes include Medicare beneficiaries who live in rural and medically underserved communities, areas in which PAs may be the only viable healthcare professional.
The bill received bipartisan support in Congress, with main backers including Republican Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Representative Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, and Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware and Representative Mike Thompson of California.
The new law also includes language from the Improving Access to Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Act, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024, to allow PAs and other advanced practice providers to supervise cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs for Medicare patients.
These healthcare provisions were part of a two-year budget agreement that includes stopgap government funding that runs through March 23, 2018. PAs will be allowed to provide hospice care beginning Jan. 1, 2019.