Health Care

Medicare doctors could be paid to talk end-of-life options

The Obama administration is considering new rules that would pay Medicare doctors to discuss end-of-life options for their patients, reviving an issue that has historically caused an uproar from the GOP.

Federal health officials are wading into the politically toxic debate about six years after claims of “death panels” nearly derailed early efforts on ObamaCare.

Under current rules, Medicare doctors are only reimbursed for end-of-life consultations if they take place during a patient’s annual wellness visit. 

A change in policy has been endorsed by dozens of leading hospice groups, who say that it is important for doctors to ask patients, for example, whether they prefer to die at home or in the hospital.

A provision to compensate doctors for these consultations was included in early versions of ObamaCare but had been withheld after then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) claimed that “death panels” would deprive seniors of healthcare.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) tried again in 2010, but was forced to roll back its plans because of political pressure.

The American Medical Association most recently asked the CMS to formally make the change last fall.

Some states, such as Colorado, have already changed policies to compensate doctors.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who endorsed the idea in an earlier House bill, was quick to praise the proposed rule, which he called “long overdue.”

“Patients and their families should be encouraged to think about how they want to be treated at the end of their life,” Blumenauer said.

Tags Earl Blumenauer

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