Senator Bob Dole was a Champion for Care in the Home

“Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning (Sunday, December 5) in his sleep. At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years,” according to a statement from his family. In February 2021, Dole informed the public that he was battling advanced lung cancer.

While Senator Dole is correctly remembered by the American public as a hero of World War 2, a long-time leader of the Senate, and a candidate for President in 1996, here at NAHC, we will also remember him as a good friend to all of us dedicated to expanding access to care in the home. For over 20 years following his long and distinguished career in Congress, Bob Dole was a good friend of NAHC and the causes we espoused together.

“We have lost a true American hero and one of the strongest and most effective advocates for home care and hospice, “ said Bill Dombi, president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice. “During his congressional tenure, Senator Dole stood out as a consistent and steadfast supporter of policies to help people gain accerss to health care at home. He was a champion of the first order. It was a priviledge to work with him both in his role in the Senate as well as NAHC outside counsel for many years. Home care and hospice advanced greatly because of the support of Senator Dole.”

Among the many legislative achievements during Bob Dole’s career was the creation of the Medicare hospice benefit, which Dole first introduced in the U.S. Senate 40 years ago. The Medicare hospice benefit became law in 1982, with the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act.

Notoriously a tough negotiator, Dole worked across the aisle with Democrats on issues like Social Security and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Dole spent 27 years in the Senate, twice serving as Majority Leader.

Despite losing to Bill Clinton in the 1996 presidential election, Dole and Clinton enjoyed a warm personal relationship. During a presidential debate the previous year, Dole famously told the audience “You can probably tell we like each other.” Just months after his loss in 1996, Dole received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service in World War 2 and Congress, from President Bill Clinton. The duo later teamed up to raise over $100 million for families of those killed in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

“The real character of the Senator was vividly depicted in one of our incedible experiences with him. Without a moment of hesitation, Senator Dole met with an individual afflicted with ALS on the tarmac of Reagan National airport to discuss the barriers the invidual was experiencing in accessing Medicare home health services. They met on the tamac because this individual required the use of a power wheelchair and a portable ventilator throughout. Despite the extreme levels of his disability, he had been denied Medicare coverage on the basis of failing to meet the homebound requirement because he was able to leave his home, but only with the extraordinary efforts of a lift to transfer from his bed to the wheelchair and the support of a portable ventilator to breathe. Through the advocacy of Senator Dole, Medicare policy was changed, permitting continuing coverage for people with permanent disabilities who successdfully challenge wrongful claim denials through the appeal process. The mark of a man is how far he will go to help others. Senator Dole had no limits when it came to helping others,” said Dombi.

President Joe Biden released a statement on December 5, mourning the loss of Dole. “Bob was an American statesman like few in our history. A war hero and among the greatest of the Greatest Generation. And to me, he was also a friend whom I could look to for trusted guidance, or a humorous line at just the right moment to settle frayed nerves,” Biden said. “I will miss my friend. But I am grateful for the times we shared, and for the friendship Jill and I and our family have built with Liddy and the entire Dole family.”

Caring is central to the job of providing quality care in the home and Bob Dole undesrtood that because it mattered so much to him. When asked at a NAHC event what caring means to him, Mr. Dole stated that, “to me it’s pretty obvious. It’s looking out for somebody else… If people didn’t care, what a society we’d have. It doesn’t take much effort… It’s so easy to care for somebody else, and most Americans do it.”

Dole is survived by his wife, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, and daughter Robin Dole.