Washington – The federal government announced on Friday that six years after the legislation encouraging end-of-life planning was declined, Medicare will be authorized to pay doctors helping patients to decide how they are going to be taken care off as they die.
A similar measure was brought down from the Affordable Care Act in 2009 by opposition towards what Sarah Palin called “death panels”. Palin claimed that bureaucrats shouldn’t decide who was worthy of receiving medical care.
Health groups and physicians urged for a policy that allowed doctors to be paid by these type of consulting, a measure that some private insurers already implemented, as the administration proposed the payments last July.
Medicare would pay $86 for the first 30 minutes of care planning in a doctor’s office, as well $80 for the service in a hospital. Added to that, Medicare will pay up to $75 for more services and consultation, according to the NY Times.
“We received overwhelmingly positive comments about the importance of these conversations between physicians and patients. We know that many patients and families want to have these discussions,” said Dr. Patrick Conway, from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to the NY Times.
The rule will affect over 55 million Medicare beneficiaries, taking effect on January 1st. It states that counseling is completely voluntary and that it could take place during the annual wellness visit or during regular visits as well. This will allow patients to have these discussions before becoming ill, or even after receiving a harsh diagnose.
Moreover, patients will be able to discuss if they want to be kept alive, choosing a life-sustaining treatment or setting the guidelines to be followed if they become too sick to make any choices in the future.
“These regulations are a starting point for a health care system that will honor the goals and wishes of patients,” Lee Goldberg, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts improving the end-of-life-care project, said according to the Wall Street Journal.
Nevertheless, the opposition argues that the measure would lead to tax the government program, as well it could result in billing frauds. For example, Gary Puma, from Springpoint Senior Living, said that the rule benefits them by receiving the additional reimbursement, but that they will not support the initiative. On the other hand, The American Hospital Association supports the decision.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 75 percent of people dying in the U.S. every year are 65 and older, making Medicare the largest insurer to provide support at the end of people’s lives.
Experts believe that Congress should do more about this matter, by promoting a legislation that educates both doctors and patients, developing a series of guidelines to ensure that the decisions made are consistent with the desires of the patients.
Source: The Wall Street Journal