Approximately 2.5 million people will die in the United States in the new year. Of that number, over three-fourths will very likely be over the age of 65. This makes Medicare the largest insurer of health care during the last year of life for an extremely large number of individuals.

In 2015, Medicare proposed payment to physicians and other qualified providers who engage in face-to-face, end-of-life care discussions. Readers may recall that a similar proposal was first made before the passage of the Affordable Care Act although it was shot down at that time after being described as allowing for the establishment of “death panels.” After many attempts to implement this measure, it appears that the final new Medicare rules will include this provision and will take this month.

Although dollar amounts for reimbursement have not yet been established, this development is encouraging. It reflects a growing recognition that having difficult end-of-life discussions with medical providers and loved ones can provide many important benefits and should be encouraged.

All adults are encouraged to execute estate planning documents, which includes advanced directives. Advanced directives identify a decision-maker to make decisions about what kind of medical care you will receive if you are unable to make your own decisions.

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