Medicare will likely cover end-of-life consultations with physicians

By David Ferguson

Despite fears of hysteria over so-called "death panels," Medicare will likely start paying doctors for discussing advance-care planning with patients, Politico reports.

Advocates told the publication that the new policy may be included in the annual Medicare physician payment rule, which could be released any day.

Efforts are also underway on the state-level to give terminally ill patients an informed array of choices regarding care and the amount of medical intervention they want as the end-of-life approaches. Activists, physicians, terminally ill patients and their family members traveled to Sacramento, California on Tuesday to testify before the state legislature in favor of SB-128, a proposal known as the End-of-Life Options Act. 

Jennifer Glass, a California woman with cancer, spoke to NPR about her decision to address the state legislature and her determination not to be subject to painful and invasive medical procedures as her condition worsens. 

Even as she faces an intense regimen of chemotherapy and radiation to treat her inoperable lung cancer, Glass has been campaigning for patients' right to forgo extreme lifesaving measures that will only prolong their suffering and that of their families--while racking up a slew of astronomical costs.

Some advocates worry that reimbursement for these end-of-life discussions could set off another round of anti-healthcare reform hysteria about so-called "death panels," a misleading talking point which former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) used to great effect six years ago.

However, physicians like Ken Murray, M.D., told NPR in another article that these often difficult and time-consuming conversations between doctors and patients are absolutely necessary for a good care plan for the terminally ill. 

To learn more:
- check out Politico's article
- read California's SB-128 here.
- here is the first NPR story and the second article