Health Care Reform Update: End-of-Life Provision Cut from Senate Proposal

Although a provision allowing Medicare to reimburse doctors who voluntarily counsel patients and their families on end-of-life issues and care was dropped from a Senate version of a health care reform proposal, a separate House version has kept it intact.

The Senate Finance Committee’s ranking Republican member, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, said the provision could be “misinterpreted” and would not be included in the committee’s proposal.

According to the Boston Globe, the end-of life provision, written by Oregon Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer, would cover counseling sessions for end-of-life issues like “living wills, making a close relative or friend a health care proxy, hospice care, and information about medications for chronic pain.” The counseling sessions, the Globe reports, “would be covered by insurance every five years, and more frequently for the seriously ill.”

Thanks in part to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the provision was “misinterpreted” by many as Senator Grassley feared and subsequently spun into what has become known as the “death panels” proposal, where, Palin and others allege, the government would decide who is treated.

In the Globe article, Congressman Blumenauer dubbed references to the so-called death panels or euthanasia as “mind numbing” since “the bill would block funds for counseling that presents suicide or assisted suicide as an option.”

Click here to read the Boston Globe article on the end-of-life provision.

A Los Angeles television news station highlighted hospice care as a cost-saving alternative to expensive and extraneous treatment in their report on the end-of-life provision, which can be viewed by clicking here.

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