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House bill would restore Medicaid funding for hospice treatment

Restoring hospice care to Medicaid-covered services in Arizona would provide better and more cost-effective care for dying patients, a lawmaker said.

Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson, authored a bill that would allow for individuals covered by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to receive end-of-life services at in-patient hospice facilities.

“It is a lot more cost effective as compared to an acute-care facility, a hospital or a hospital’s ICU,” he said.

Heinz said he came across the issue through his experience as an in-patient hospital physician.

“I’ve had multiple hospital physicians and other physicians in the community contact me asking why this service, which is a much more cost-effective service for the patients and better for family, was removed,” he said.

Heinz worked with Tom Betlach, director of AHCCCS, and Jennifer Carusetta, legislative liaison for the program, on the measure.

Although AHCCCS is required to provide end-of-life services, it currently doesn’t do so at in-patient hospices, Carusetta said.

“When the budget of Arizona turned downward, that authorization was not continued,” she said.

Carusetta said AHCCCS officials don’t know exactly how much money would be saved from implementing the change, but she said that at the very least it wouldn’t cost more.

The House approved Heinz’s bill, HB 2099, on Thursday by a vote of 38-22, forwarding it to the Senate.

The measure would also cover fee-for-service AHCCCS members, the majority of whom are American Indian and served by the federally funded Indian Health Service.

“They are completely restricted right now from offering hospice, and this would allow them to get that better, more appropriate care at that particular time which they cannot receive at this time,” Heinz said.

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