As of the beginning of 2011, Medicare now covers voluntary advance care planning, otherwise known as end-of-life planning. A provision so controversial that the Democrats dropped it from the health-care reform bill when Republicans made it a hot topic, Medicare has approved the practice that includes annual checkups, or wellness visits for those who are facing the end of their life.
Advance care planning allows patients to receive end-of-life planning or counseling during their annual checkup. As a growing number of families face the end of life issues of their elderly loved ones, this is especially welcome news. One example of an item that is often included in the discussion is when to withdraw life-sustaining care, a topic that can bring division to families.
Although such Republicans as John Boehner and Sarah Palin have opposed allowing the discussion between patients and physicians to be covered by Medicare, research has consistently shown that there is value to such planning. When families prepare ahead of time for the inevitable death of their elderly family members, much stress is removed when it is time for tough decisions to be made.
One of the main arguments for advance care planning is that patients get to have their say in what kind of care they would like as the end draws near.
Personally, both of my parents made their decisions years ago and papers were drawn up and kept in their security lock box so that family members could find them if and when they were needed. Knowing what our parents desires were helped us make decisions, especially in my mother’s case as she had TIA dementia and got to the point where she could no longer communicate her wishes. Having such documentation takes a huge weight off the shoulders of family members and caregivers, and can help prevent disagreements that may arise as to what a parents’ wishes might be when the parent can’t express their opinion.
Some of the comments made by Republicans who opposed the addition to the health care bill just do not make sense to me. Comments suggesting that discussing advance care with a physician would hasten death or that advance care would encourage governmental euthanasia just do not ring true. Unfortunately, lawmakers come up with the craziest ideas if the opposition suggests something that they can turn into a hot-button topic.
Such posturing ends up hurting those who need the support the most – the elderly of this country. It is good news, therefore, that Medicare stepped up to the plate and made the decision to cover voluntary end-of-life planning as part of the annual Medicare wellness visit beginning January 1, 2011. Thank you, Medicare!