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Rockefeller: End-of-life care key to reducing costs

September 18, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller said educating people about options for end-of-life care is a key to reducing Medicare care costs during a roundtable discussion Friday with Hospice of the Panhandle staff and families helped by the organization.

Rockefeller's visit, which included a meeting with Shepherd University students in Shepherdstown, comes amid a series of interviews he has given to journalists about his opposition to the health care bill pending in the Senate Finance Committee.

Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is chairman of the committee's health care subcommittee.

"The system is so bad and this is the year we have to fix it," said Rockefeller, who acknowledged the timing of the legislative action pushed by President Obama was "the worst possible ... because government is involved in everything" due to the depressed economy.

Hospice CEO Margaret Cogswell asked Rockefeller to help preserve the level of federal reimbursement funding for hospices, rather than have to grapple with a 12 percent reduction over a 10-year period she believes has been proposed.

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Rockefeller also was lobbied for help with finding money for Hospice's dream to build an inpatient facility for the organization's four-county service area.

"I figure if I asked for $5 million, I might get three (million) or I might not get anything," said Travis Hill, a Hospice supporter.

After hearing from Hill and others about the services their loved ones received from Hospice of the Panhandle, Rockefeller shared how his mother's 12-year battle with Alzheimer's disease affected his family before she died in 1992.

"She had a living will and had put it somewhere and she forgot where she put it," Rockefeller said.

Rockefeller said he felt his mother's life was extended unnecessarily by health professionals who wanted to keep her alive.

Rockefeller said he believed his mother might have signaled her wish to die when "she bit down on her feeding tube and she wouldn't let go."

The family had her released from the hospital and took her home, where the doctor prescribed her morphine and she died three weeks later.

Rockefeller said his wife's father now is deep into Alzheimer's and receiving hospice care.

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