Compassion & Choices held a packed briefing on Capitol Hill October 29, where we introduced our new federal policy agenda and discussed recent state-level work. Chief Program Officer Kim Callinan served as moderator and presented C&C’s agenda, which lays out a roadmap for achieving patient-centered, family-oriented care that honors personal choices. It offers specific recommendations to policymakers, such as establishing payment and training for palliative care consultations, ending reimbursement for unwanted medical treatment, and requiring electronic medical records to include advance directive information.
Other speakers at the briefing included Dan Diaz, Brittany Maynard’s husband, who has testified in favor of aid-in-dying laws in California, Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts since Brittany passed using Oregon’s Death With Dignity law last year. Compassion & Choices California Political Director Charmaine Manansala outlined the provisions in California’s new aid-in-dying law, modeled on 17 years of success in Oregon. Dr. David Grube, one of C&C’s medical directors, shared his experience as a family physician working in Oregon during the implementation of Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act. And board member Rev. Dr. Ignacio Castuera, who worked tirelessly in campaigning for the End of Life Option Act in his home state of California, discussed his outreach efforts within the medical and faith communities.
In an encouraging turn, the following day the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule to reimburse doctors starting Jan. 1, 2016, for communicating with patients about whether and how they would want to be kept alive if they become too sick to speak for themselves – one of the elements of C&C’s federal policy agenda and a proposal we actively supported.
“This new rule removes a barrier for doctors to initiate and engage in conversations, a key step to ensure healthcare providers honor patients’ treatment goals, preferences and values,” said Callinan. “The complimentary step to achieve this goal is for CMS to formulate a proposal to ensure that healthcare providers are not reimbursed for unwanted medical treatment, which polling data suggests about 25 million Americans have experienced.” CMS has also added advance care planning as an optional element to annual wellness visits.
More still needs to happen on the federal level, however, and you can help.
Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) have introduced the Care Planning Act of 2015, legislation designed to give people with serious illness the freedom to make more informed choices about their care and the power to have those choices honored. This bipartisan legislation would further efforts to strengthen end-of-life care by developing quality measures, promoting public and provider education, addressing the decision-making for people with serious illness throughout the process, and including adherence and portability measures to ensure that patients’ choices are honored across care settings.
Click here to write a letter to your senators asking them to cosponsor the Care Planning Act. Make sure to include your personal story about family, friends or other loved ones.