Rewind to the early 2000’s, and the US was a country severely lacking in its availability of palliative care. It was difficult to access, expensive, and lacked the backing of prominent figures and politicians to help increase awareness.
Now in 2017, things have slowly and steadily improved. Several states now ensure that patients with serious illnesses have access to information about palliative care and how to receive it.
Some states, such as California, have gone even further by signing a law stating that all Medicaid care plans in the state will offer palliative care as standard.
Lack of a Standard
Yet due to the unique style of government the US has, each of the country’s 50 states has different attitudes and ideas about palliative care, resulting in a lucky dip scenario for seriously ill individuals which is wholly dependent on where they live.
Naturally, this is where the federal government could come in and help, but aside from a few demonstrations to raise awareness, little has been done up top to help people in need of these services across the country.
A Continuous Problem
While access to services is difficult enough, further roadblocks exist that only further prevent those in need for getting the care they require.
Perhaps the most prominent of these problems is insurance. Many patients lack adequate insurance that will cover the costs of their palliative care, and while Medicare, the country’s federal health insurance program for people over 65, is a potential solution, its success in securing palliative care for these people is debatable.
This is because while Medicare provides palliative care services to those in hospital or hospice care, the same is not true for those elsewhere, such as people in home care using home care services.
“If you are not terminally ill and ready to elect hospice, access to palliative care services is really limited,” said Sharon Pearce, vice president for public policy for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
Why is Palliative Care Not More Widely Available?
The slow progress of increasing access to palliative care in the country has made many pose one simple question – why is palliative care not more widely available?
The answer, however, is not so simple. Compared to other forms of care, palliative care is fairly new. With a new form of care comes a need for newly qualified staff – staff that many studies, such as one published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management in 2010, say are lacking in numbers.
What’s more, due to the fact that the care is associated with the terminally ill, many patients are not keen to seek it out due to what it entails, and in turn, many doctors and nurses are not eager to prescribe it.
The Need for Palliative Care
Yet despite its associations, like home care, senior care, and respite care, palliative care is but another essential part of the care industry, and not giving it the same prominence as other forms of care is hurting a large part of the US population.
The evidence that palliative care is beneficial to its patients is there – as Dr. Sean Morrison, a researcher in geriatrics and palliative medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York said:
“Considerable data now demonstrates that when patients receive palliative care in addition to traditional medical care, they have improved quality of life, greater satisfaction with their medical care, are less likely to be re-admitted to the hospital or have to visit an emergency department, and in certain diseases (i.e. cancer) have greater survival.”
Palliative care Is an essential part of the US care industry, and its time the country realises this.