About to board a flight back to his district, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., is downright effusive, calling a health care policy that takes effect Jan. 1 “profound” and nothing short of “revolutionary.” On that date, Medicare will greatly expand its reimbursement to health care providers who talk with their patients about end-of-life choices, also called “advance care planning.”
It was Blumenauer who six years ago touched off the frenzy about health care rationing and so-called death panels when he introduced a provision to what would become the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). A leading advocate of personalized medicine, Blumenauer and a coalition of health care groups lobbied the federal government to widely reimburse providers for voluntary end-of-life discussions with patients. His provision was stripped from the ACA, and only this year did Medicare change its policy to increase coverage of advance care planning.
Medicare already pays for these conversations when they’re part of a new enrollee’s “Welcome to Medicare” consult with a physician. But starting next month, under new reimbursement codes proposed by the American Medical Association, the planning sessions will be covered by Medicare no matter when patients want to have them. Health care professionals will be able to bill Medicare $86 for the first half hour of an advance planning conversation ($80 in a hospital) and $75 for an additional 30 minutes.
A Shift in Mindset for Doctors?
But how prepared are frenetic doctors to slow down and help patients make end-of-life decisions? As Dr. Atul Gawande, Next Avenue’s Influencer of the Year, noted in his best-selling book and PBS Frontline documentary Being Mortal, few doctors have the specialized skills that geriatricians and palliative care doctors have developed to effectively talk with their patients about end-of-life wishes.
Read More: http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2015/12/18/are-doctors-ready-to-talk-about-end-of-life-care/