The Obama administration is trying to quiet talk about so-called “death panels” after The New York Times reported Sunday that a new Medicare regulation includes incentives for end-of-life-care planning.
The Medicare policy will pay doctors for holding end-of-life-care discussions with patients, according to the Times. A similar provision was dropped from the new healthcare reform law after Republicans accused the administration of withholding care from the sick, elderly and disabled.
However, an administration spokesman said the regulation, which is less specific than the reform law's draft language, is actually a continuation of a policy enacted under former President George W. Bush.
"The only thing new here is a regulation allowing the discussions … to happen in the context of the new annual wellness visit created by [healthcare reform]," Obama spokesman Reid Cherlin told The Wall Street Journal.
In 2003, Medicare added a consultation visit for seniors new to the program, according to the Journal. Another 2008 law, enacted under Bush, said the visit can include “end-of-life” planning discussions.
Sarah Palin, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012, sparked controversy last summer when she said the reform law's end-of-life provision would create “death panels,” in which “government bureaucrats” would decide who receives care. President Obama countered the claim by saying his administration didn’t want to “pull the plug on grandma."