Hospice of Martha's Vineyard to align with Cape agency
Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, the nonprofit organization that has provided end-of-life care for Island residents for 28 years, will align itself with a Cape-based hospice provider, rejecting a possible merger with the Island's Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) that would have had Hospice of M.V. become a part of VNA. The VNA announced in February its plan to become a Medicare-eligible hospice, in competition with Hospice of M.V. (Hospice).
Hospice will continue to offer free care, regardless of the health insurance circumstances of its clients. Free hospice care is at the heart of the organization's mission. Under an agreement with Hospice and Palliative Care of Cape Cod (HPCCC), Hospice will, for the first time, also provide patients access to hospice services covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers.
HPCCC can provide access to insurance benefits for Hospice patients because it is a Medicare-certified hospice provider, something the volunteer-based nonprofit Hospice has steadfastly chosen not to become, in order to offer end-of-life care independent of Medicare rules.
"Through the unique alliance with HPCCC, Island residents will continue to be able to access the free expertise provided by Hospice from the day of diagnosis," said Terre Young, executive director of Hospice, in a press statement provided to The Times. "But as their disease progresses, they will now have a choice as to whether or not to access the hospice insurance benefits. When a patient chooses the hospice benefit, the two organizations will collaborate at all levels to ensure continuity of care and a seamless transition for patients and families."
Most important, Hospice officials said, is that the deal, described as an alliance, allows Hospice to remain independent. "Although HPCCC and Hospice are embarking on this collaboration together," said Ms. Young, "each organization will maintain its independent status, identity, mission, and philanthropic pursuits."
At the core of the issue is the hospice benefit associated with some insurance coverages. If a Medicare, Medicaid insured has a doctor's diagnosis that he or she has less than six months to live, a Medicare-certified hospice program will provide all medications, palliative radiation, equipment (such as a hospital bed), occupational and physical therapies, home health aides (for example, for bathing), and social counseling. If the patient lives longer than six months, the hospice benefit may be renewed, but it may not begin before the six-months-to-live point.
Because Hospice does not have a six-months-to-live rule, it can begin working with clients and families earlier in the course of a life-ending illness.
Hospice is certified as a hospice by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and is financed entirely through local fundraising. It provides professional nursing care and the services of a professional social worker. Non-professional volunteers are a large part of Hospice, assisting patients and their families by running errands, doing housework, visiting with the patient or family members, or responding to other requests.