By Jason Millman - 01/05/11 01:56 PM EST
The Obama administration will remove a brand-new Medicare policy that had reignited the "death panel" debate from last year's healthcare fight.
The provision to be eliminated would have covered end-of-life consultations as part of annual wellness examinations created by the new healthcare reform law, according to a report.
The reversal comes a week after some conservatives accused the Obama administration of trying to sneak through a regulation after failing to gain congressional support. A provision for end-of-life planning was not included in the final healthcare overhaul after conservative firebrands labeled it as supporting government-run "death panels."
In November, the Medicare agency issued a massive regulation setting physician rates for thousands of services, including new annual wellness examinations. The New York Times first reported in late December that the wellness examinations included voluntary end-of-life counseling.
Conservatives who accused the administration of trying to govern in secrecy pointed to a letter from a House Democrat's office that was sent before the regulation was published and urged supporters not to openly celebrate the new regulation for fear that Republican leaders would "use this small provision to perpetuate the 'death panel' myth."
Though "death panels" were named lie of the year by Politifact, a political fact-checking website, the label has dogged end-of-life planning since conservatives first objected to it in the summer of 2009. Conservatives again pounced on the Obama administration over the past week after news of the end-of-life consultations surfaced.
The administration removed the end-of-life provision from the new Medicare rule because the public did not have a chance to comment on it, according to the Times.
“We realize that this should have been included in the proposed rule, so more people could have commented on it specifically,” an administration official told the Times.
During the healthcare reform debate, the House passed a provision — which had three Republican co-sponsors — that would have paid physicians to hold end-of-life discussions with patients. However, it was not included in the final bill.