December 08, 2015

End of Life: Medicare Will Cover Discussions

A September 2015 Kaiser study showed that 89% of Americans surveyed support the idea that doctors should have end of life discussions with their patients. Further, 81% also believed that Medicare should cover those discussions.

When Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials announced in October that they would begin paying medical practitioners to have these conversations with their patients in 2016, the announcement met little to no opposition. This was a far cry from just a few years ago.

During the debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), GOP concerns over supposed “death panels” were so intense that provisions to cover consultation on end of life issues such as living wills, advanced directives, and end of life care were removed. Unfortunately, many Americans are still uncomfortable having end of life discussions with their doctor. Kaiser found that only 17% of Americans have had an end of life discussion with their physician.

Starting in 2016 Medicare will provide $86 for an initial half hour in-office consultation and $75 for an additional 30 minutes. If necessary, it will also pay for additional discussions. With these Medicare changes, the hope is that more doctors and patients will have these important discussions.

End of life discussions are important to ensure your end of life wishes are fulfilled. Proponents of end-of-life care planning say it can prevent terminally ill patients from having to undergo unwanted procedures that limit their quality of life in their final months while increasing health spending. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Create a living will and ensure it remains up to date.
  • Name a health care proxy.
  • Assign a health care power of attorney.

It is always important to discuss your wishes with your family and power of attorney so that when that unfortunate time comes, they will know your preferences and the situation can be handled accordingly.

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