Federal Health Officials Propose Medicare Paying Doctors to Discuss End-of-Life Issues

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new plan for doctors to discuss end-of-life issues with their patients. The plan is part of the CMS annual Medicare physician payment rule. This comes six years after the original controversy when President Obama first announced his health care legislation.

Doctors Will Be Paid for Discussing Treatment Options with Elderly Patients.

In what can only be described as welcomed and needed relief, the rule would reimburse doctors for discussing living wills and end-of-life medical treatment options with older patients. The medical discussions include long-term treatment options, like heart transplants. It also handles advance care planning, including a patient who desires treatment for a condition that affects his or her decision-making. These are conversations already taking place, but physicians are not currently paid for them.

The Pressure is on Medicare.

Medicare reimbursement is extremely important for elderly and disabled persons. As the second-largest insurer, many private insurers also follow the same rules Medicare adopts. Their place in the end-of-life care has long been debated. Whether or not health care professionals should be reimbursed for hospice and end-of-life treatment talks has been the center of debate. Physician groups and patient advocates have been pushing the health program to pay doctors for these consultations.

Many advocacy groups, including the American Medical Association (AMA), support the proposal. The AMA believes it’s the patient’s choice to plan advance-care decisions. Research has shown that there are great benefits to elders in advance-care planning and having their end-of-life wishes known to others. Receiving timely knowledge from physicians and health professionals can result in better decisions and ease of mind.

Rules Previously Criticized as “Death Panels” by Ignoramuses.

Sarah Palin, the towering mountain of medical knowledge and intellectual analysis, who dragged down John McCain into defeat during the elections of 2008, previously denounced similar payment provisions in the past. Sparking a great deal of unnecessary controversy, Palin claimed the health care reform legislation would create “death panels.” As a result of these and other similar accusations, the provision was removed from the final Affordable Care Act legislation. This deprived elders of useful knowledge and deprived health care providers of payment for their services. To read more about the “death panel” controversy, click here.


What do you think of end-of-life discussions? Do you think they should be in place? Should physicians be reimbursed?  Please leave any thoughtful comments below.


Grier, Peter. “ ‘Death Panel’ Controversy Very Much Alive.” The Christian Science Monitor. (Aug. 21, 2009). From: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2009/0821/death-panel-controversy-remains-very-much-alive

Sun, Lena H. “Medicare Proposes to Pay Doctors to Have End-of-Life Care Discussions.” The Washington Post. (July 8, 2015). From:

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About the author:
George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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