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CMS Praised for Proposal to Reimburse Docs for End-of-Life Conversations

End-of-Life Choice Group Says Congress Should Complement Proposal by Passing Law

(Washington, DC – July 8, 2015) Compassion & Choices praised the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for proposing to reimburse doctors for communicating with patients about whether and how they would want to be kept alive if they become too sick to speak for themselves. The proposal follows the American Medical Association’s recommendation to make advance care planning services a separately payable service under Medicare.

Only one out of four Americans (26%) have completed an advance directive to ensure their end-of-life healthcare wishes are carried out if they are unable to speak for themselves, according to a study published in the January 2014 edition of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Nearly one out of four older Americans say that either they or a family member have experienced excessive or unwanted medical treatment. This CMS proposal is a positive step – but by no means a panacea – toward ensuring patients receive only the end-of-life care they want – no more and no less,” said Daniel R. Wilson, national & federal programs director for Compassion & Choices, a leading end-of-life choice advocacy group.

“This proposal would remove a barrier doctors have cited that prevented them from engaging in these conversations because they are not reimbursed for them,” said Wilson. “Now Congress needs to pass legislation to compensate doctors for initiating these conversations and penalize healthcare providers that do not honor patients’ express wishes for end-of-life care.”

Compassion & Choices has long advocated for compensating physicians for engaging in end-of-life care conversations, including it as part of the Affordable Care Act. But this provision was stripped from the bill before it became law.

In addition, Compassion & Choices is a founding collaborator in the Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment, a growing coalition of 19 organizations whose goal is to ensure that consumers are empowered and have access to a full range of well-coordinated medical care and treatment. The CMS proposal is a core objective of the campaign.

Compassion & Choices supports the Care Planning Act of 2015 that would create a Medicare benefit for people facing grave illness to work with their doctor to define, articulate and document their personal goals for treatment.  Sponsored by U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), this bipartisan bill will help patients avoid excessive or unwanted medical treatment and receive only the care they want, consistent with their wishes, across care settings.