Monday, January 17, 2011

Why did Obama reverse course on Medicare end-of-life counseling legislation?

Earlier this month, we reported on legislation taking effect in 2011 that would promote end-of-life counseling through Medicare reimbursements to doctors.  Now just days into the new year, the legislation appears to be dead in the water.  ElderLawAnswers has reported that the legislation is being withdrawn:
A provision in the House version of the health reform law would have allowed Medicare to pay for patient discussions with their doctors about how much or little care they want when facing a terminal illness, offering beneficiaries a chance to learn about things like advance directives, palliative care and hospice care.
According to Senior Journal, officials cited a lack of a public commenting period as the purpose behind the reversal.  On the other hand, some critics believe the Obama administration is simply avoiding a touchy subject (i.e. the discussion of “death panels") at a time where every move it makes regarding health reform may have the effect of propagating even more uncertainty.  

 “It remains legal for doctors to talk with patients during the annual Medicare visits [about end-of –life counseling]; it's just that they can't be specifically paid for that discussion,” explained Senior Journal in its recent article.

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