Six years back, we saw a political furor emerging around President Barack Obama’s new health care law. Now, Medicare is planning to introduce the same idea. According to an announcement made on Wednesday, Medicare is currently planning to pay doctors for offering end-of-life counseling to patients.
This policy change will take effect from January 1, 2015. Introduction of this amendment will make counseling absolutely voluntary for patients.
Many physicians already take part in such conversations with patients without requiring them to pay an additional amount. In addition, some private insurers have also begun to offer reimbursement for such services. However, making the service voluntary to approximately 55 million Medicare beneficiaries would make such conversations a lot more common than what it is now.
Around three fourth of the people dying in the United States every year are 65 years of age or older. This makes Medicare the biggest insurer for people at the end of their lives. Patrick Conway, the chief medical officer of Medicare, said that as a person who has dealt with such situations as a son as well as a practicing physician, he feels that end-of-life counseling holds the key to high-quality care.
Conway added that he believes that every American who wants to have such conversations with their physician must get the opportunity of doing so.
Medicare has given “end-of-lie counseling” a new name. It’s being called “advance care planning”.
The counseling will be aiming at discerning the kind of treatments patients wish to receive during the last days of their lives. The options would range from putting in all-out medical efforts for resuscitating dying patients to providing patients with care that focuses more on comfort than increasing their life span.
Medicare’s decision for covering end-of-life counseling has been praised by the American Medical Association. Andrew Gurman, president-elect of the AMA, said that although previously this issue was mischaracterized, it’s high time to facilitate patients’ choices for advance care planning.
Supporters of this step by Medicare are saying that counseling would provide patients with more control and also free their families from the process of making tortuous decisions.
Interested parties will have a total of 60 days to comment about this new Medicare regulation before it gets finalized.