Medicare Now Covers Conversations About End-of-Life Care

Medicare beneficiaries may now discuss options for end-of-life care with their health care providers.

Beneficiaries were always free to talk about advance care planning with their doctors or other qualified health professionals. Unfortunately, however, until recently practitioners could be reimbursed for such discussions only during a patient’s “Welcome to Medicare” visit. Under new regulations effective January 1, 2016, advance care planning discussions can take place during the annual wellness visit or at a separate appointment.  The discussions are a reimbursable benefit under Medicare Part B and there will be a copayment if the conversation is not part of the annual wellness visit.

Now that discussions about advance care planning are a regular Medicare benefit, seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries will be able to learn about health care options that are available for end-of-life care, such as advance directives, palliative care and hospice care.  They can then determine which types of care they would like to have, and share their wishes with their practitioners and family.  After sufficient conversations with their doctors and other health professionals, the beneficiaries may be ready to execute legal documents, such as advance directives or “POLST” forms, and name a  health care proxy to ensure that their wishes will be carried out. Studies have found that 40% of people over age 65 have not written down their wishes for end-of-life treatment. Thus, these conversations may help enable patients to end their lives on their own terms.

In addition, life-prolonging medical procedures are unwanted and unwelcome for many patients.  A 2011 study found that when medical personnel know what kind of care a patient wants at the end of life, the patient is more likely to die at home rather than in a hospital.

Talk to an attorney at the Law Office of Donald D. Vanarelli about drawing up the documents to help ensure you receive the end-of-life medical treatment you want — no more and no less.

(This article was adapted from an article on the ElderLaw Answers website.)

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