The care that people receive near the end of life should reflect the care they want, according to their beliefs and preferences. Unfortunately, most Americans become incapacitated before discussing those plans with loved ones or health care professionals. Research shows that sharing end-of-life care preferences before becoming incapacitated significantly benefits patients—and can help to reduce their family’s stress and anxiety.
Progress toward this goal is being made. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a final rule that allows Medicare, beginning in January, to reimburse health care professionals for time spent discussing advance care planning with patients. While this is an important first step in ensuring that a patient’s wishes are honored, more can and should be done.
As an editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune points out, the U.S. Senate should consider the Care Planning Act (S. 1549), introduced in June by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), which would build on the steps being taken by CMS. “The bill includes admirable steps to measure outcomes—health care jargon for determining whether the program is meeting its intended goal of reflecting a patient’s choices in the treatment that is delivered,” the Nov. 18 editorial states. “In addition, the bill would provide grants to increase public awareness of new end-of-life care planning options and the value of making decisions in advance.”
Pew supports this bipartisan legislation and commends Sens. Warner and Isakson and the four original co-sponsors for their efforts to improve end-of-life care.