Obama Administration Abruptly Pulls Plug on Medicare
Original sponsor of provision intends to reintroduce
legislation allowing Medicare to pay for such discussions with doctors
that many view as helpful to critically ill seniors
Jan. 10, 2011 - Three days after enacting a
Medicare regulation that would have reimbursed doctors for discussing
end-of-life planning with patients during their annual checkups, the
Obama administration has reversed course and last week withdrew the
regulation, according to a report in ElderLawAnswers.com.
Although administration officials said the reason
behind the reversal was that the public did not have a chance to comment
on the proposal, critics of the move suspected that the administration
feared the regulation would revive the specter of government "death
panels" at a time when its health reform law is being challenged by
A provision in the House version of the health
reform law would have allowed Medicare to pay for patient discussions
with their doctors about how much or little care they want when facing a
terminal illness, offering beneficiaries a chance to learn about things
like advance directives, palliative care and hospice care.
The benefit would have been purely voluntary, but
Sarah Palin and other opponents of health reform seized on the provision
as a "secret plan" to euthanize elderly Americans, and the provision
never made it into the final health care legislation.
While the health reform bill would have created a
separate, reimbursable visit specifically to discuss end-of-life
decisions, in November the Obama administration quietly added references
to end-of-life planning in a final Medicare regulation that sets payment
rates for thousands of physician services. Doctors would be reimbursed
if their patients wished to discuss end-of-life treatment as part of an
annual "wellness" visit.
But shortly thereafter, administration officials
withdrew the advance care planning regulation, explaining that it should
have been part of a proposed rule that had been published for public
comment in July 2010. It remains legal for doctors to talk with patients
during the annual Medicare visits; it's just that they can't be
specifically paid for that discussion.
Politico reports that Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the original
sponsor of the House bill's end-of-life coverage provision, intends to
reintroduce legislation allowing Medicare to pay for such discussions
with doctors. In the meantime, patient advocates hope that the Obama
administration is telling the truth when it claims the regulation's
withdrawal was just a "process" issue that will be remedied.
"I don't know why they decided to pull it but this
administration should make it a priority and put it back in," said Terry
Berthelot, an attorney and former social worker with the
Center for Medicare Advocacy. "They should not shrink away from this
issue. It will really add value to the Medicare benefit."
Aug. 1, 2009 The political right wing is sinking
to new lows in a desperate attempt to protect insurance companies from
losing any profits due to health care reform advocated by President
Obama. And, they are targeting senior citizens as the voter group most
likely to swallow their lie, which is that the legislation will
pressure the elderly to end their lives prematurely. That is a lie and
seniors must not fall for it.
link to video....
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