The New York Times reports that seniors are seeking information for tough decisions that they’ll make. Doctors are getting paid to offer end of life planning support.
Three non-profits — the California Health Care Foundation, Cambia Health Foundation and John A. Hartford Foundation — fielded a poll of 736 doctors who see patients 65 and older. Only 14 percent said they had already billed Medicare for the new counseling, though the survey was conducted February 18 through March 7, meaning the earliest participants only had about six weeks from the start of the benefit. Altogether, 95 percent of doctors in the poll expressed support for the Medicare benefit and a big majority considered such conversations important….
All told, it was only about 20 minutes before Diamond’s white sneakers shuffled out of the room and the appointment was over. He was to review the paperwork with his two daughters before signing it, but he said he had looked forward to the session simply because it was a new experience. Diamond said he saw it as both necessary and comforting.
Medicare reimbursements for the appointments vary by region and the type of facility, but on average, an initial 30-minute session in a doctor’s office costs $86. As those experiences proliferate, the topic of discussing end-of-life care may return to the relatively uncontentious mantle it once enjoyed.
Death is scary, but lots of things are scary. Having a plan to address uncertainty helps a lot of people become less scared as well as maintain control over themselves and their environment. In a medical finance context, having a plan allows people to get the care that they want with some modicum of dignity. It is not a death panel. People can choose to have the hospital go all out with a strong possibility of a long stay in an ICU while others may choose to have hospice as their preferred option. It is a matter of choice instead of a mandated non-choice that all people will get every type of care even when the individual would prefer not to have that care.
It is not a death panel. It is information and advice from a trusted expert to make good choices.