- In its 1,200-page 2015 physician payment rules document, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Friday that it will be considering reimbursing physicians to provide end-of-life counseling to patients.
- According to CMS spokesman Aaron Albright, the agency will "give the public ample opportunity to weigh in on the topic." The change is under consideration for 2016, not this coming year.
- Such counseling would be voluntary, and has widespread support in the healthcare industry. Some insurance plans already cover it.
Cue the political debate. This is the kind of legislative language that sparked the "death panel" hysteria in 2009, and it seems likely that political input will play a similarly outsized role here again.
Meanwhile, a recently-released report from the Institute of Medicine called Dying in America showed massive room for improvement in the quality and availability of end-of-life care for patients in the United States. A committee of experts on the topic found that the nation suffers from a shortage of palliative care specialists and that other clinicians lack appropriate knowledge to treat patients dealing with end-of-life issues. If Medicare does begin reimbursing physicians for these services, it seems likely that needed training will quickly be ramped up.
Want to read more? You may enjoy this story on why hospitals continue to struggle with end of life care.