Our View: End-of-life care talks key part of health picture

Six years ago, a proposal to compensate physicians for talking to patients about their treatment in their last days was stripped from the Affordable Care Act after critics made dark predictions about “death panels” and government rationing of care to senior citizens.

Last week, with little fanfare, the federal government announced that as of Jan. 1, it would begin paying doctors for these counseling sessions – giving millions the say in their own end-of-life treatment that they want and deserve.

Nothing is currently stopping physicians from offering end-of-life consultations, of course. Some doctors provide the service without getting paid for the counseling time, and some private insurers already reimburse for it.

But because Medicare covers 55 million people, making it the largest insurer at the end of life in the U.S., its decision to cover advance care planning is significant – and not just because private companies often follow Medicare’s lead.

The move recognizes that people need to be involved in treatment decisions before they become seriously ill or unable to make their wishes known. Patients aren’t getting the care they want, according to a landmark 2014 Institute of Medicine report, “Dying in America”: Instead of dying at home, with measures to ease pain, Americans are receiving unwanted interventions and not enough comfort care.

That said, there are also people who would want doctors to pursue more aggressive steps. And the new Medicare rule wouldn’t keep patients from expressing, in advance, their preference in favor of life-prolonging procedures.


Read more here: http://www.pressherald.com/2015/11/05/our-view-end-of-life-care-talks-key-part-of-health-picture/