Palliative care bill advanced

Senators advanced a bill from general file April 5 that seeks to improve knowledge of and access to palliative care in Nebraska.

Sen. Mark Kolterman
Sen. Mark Kolterman

Seward Sen. Mark Kolterman, sponsor of LB323, said palliative care seeks to improve the quality of life of individuals diagnosed with a life-threatening illness through the early identification of pain and treatment of psychosocial and spiritual needs.

The bill would establish the Palliative Care and Quality of Life Act and create an advisory council that would meet at least twice a year.

The bill also would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to establish the Palliative Care Consumer and Professional Information and Education Program.

Program information would be made available on the department’s website on or before June 30, 2018. This would include continuing education opportunities for health care professionals and educational materials and information on delivery of palliative care in the home and in hospice settings, as well as best practices.

Kolterman said many medical professionals erroneously equate palliative care with end-of-life care and hospice only. This misunderstanding remains one of the main barriers to access to palliative care services, he said.

“The purpose of the education program is to maximize the effectiveness of palliative care initiatives in the state by ensuring that comprehensive and accurate information is available to the public,” Kolterman said.

Ralston Sen. Merv Riepe spoke in favor of the bill, saying the need for the bill’s provisions will increase as Nebraskans continue to live longer.

“Palliative care is part of addressing new health care delivery models and meeting needs,” Riepe said.

The bill advanced to select file on a 38-0 vote.

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