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Hospice patients and caregivers face budget cuts

READ MORE: Hospice patients and caregivers face budget cuts
Hospice caregivers across the country are concerned. The vast majority of hospice patients are Medicare recipients, and the Medicare program is facing budget cuts. The non-profit is going to the White House to make sure it still has the funds it needs to provide quality care. Bob Wesson is a volunteer at the Lower Cape Fear Hospice and Life Care Center. He has a personal connection to the non-profit. His mother was a hospice patient. "She had the most peaceful death I've ever witnessed. And the reason was hospice." The organization cares for 1.5 million Americans each year, but it faces a crisis. The federal budget forecasts a cut to Medicare hospice reimbursements totaling about 2 billion over the next “If these cuts go through, hospice is going to have to make a decision. Do they cut the number of patients? Do they cut the quality of care? Do they have to cut staff and all of that? In the end, it is going to impact the families and the patients," said hospice volunteer Barbara Birkenheuer. Lower Cape Fear Hospice President and CEO, Laurie Bystrom, said 85 percent of its 343 daily patients are on Medicare. Now, the federal government reimburses 135 dollars per patient per day, even if the patient care costs more than that. If the federal plan goes through, something has to give. Not something Bystrom wants to see happen. “I've personally seen story after story of people that come back to us, what a difference hospice care made in their lives and the lives of the ones that they've lost." October 1st the cuts go in to effect. Already 45 Senators, and 171 members of the House of Representatives have sent letters to the president to stop the cut of Medicare hospice rates. “It would just be wonderful if we could get some of those letters from the community in front of President Obama asking him, telling him, how important hospice care is to the individuals,” Bystrom said. On top of the humanitarian service it provides, research shows hospice actually saves the government money. A study out of Duke University shows that on average, hospice saves Medicare more than $2,000 per patient, and advocates say the proposed cuts just don't make sense.

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