Federal government approves new N.D. Children’s Hospice Program

A new children’s hospice program in North Dakota will benefit children with a life-limiting diagnosis and their families.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has approved the North Dakota Department of Human Services’ request to start the program, a news release said.

“Our goal is to support families as they care for their children at home,” Medical Services Division Director Maggie Anderson said in a statement. “The new program provides hospice services along with other specialized care and support for children while they continue to receive treatment toward a cure.”

In the release, Anderson said the program is intended to benefit children who have a life expectancy of a year or less. The program overrides some coverage limits and allows ongoing treatment, while also providing specialized services like palliative care, which addresses pain, symptoms, the stress of serious illness and grief.

North Dakota’s Children’s Hospice Program can serve up to 30 children and will cover qualifying children ranging in age from infants to age 21, she said. Children with life-limiting diagnoses may qualify even if their families do not meet the regular income criteria for Medicaid coverage.

The program will help qualifying families access services with the help of a nurse case manager, including respite care and other home health aide support, nursing services, hospice, therapy and grief counseling. Other available services help children with the physical, emotional, spiritual and social stresses experienced during serious illness.

Lawmakers approved state matching funds for the program during the 2009 legislative session. Because the services supplement existing approved Medicaid services and serve a specific targeted group of people, the state had to apply for a waiver and obtain federal approval.

Families can contact the North Dakota Department of Human Services’ Medical Services Division at 701-328-3701 if they have a child with a life-limiting diagnoses.