Feds Propose Paying Doctors To Have End-Of-Life Conversations

After years of debate about whether the government should encourage end-of-life plans, the feds have proposed reimbursing doctors to have those conversations.

Medicare, which insures 55 million older and disabled people, is taking another look at paying doctors to talk to patients about how they’d like to be kept alive if they become too sick to speak.

The idea was lambasted by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, as a "death panel."

But Oregon doctors have been squeezing in such conversations during scheduled appointments for years. They just haven’t been able to bill for them.

Dr. Susan Tolle with the Center for Ethics in Health Care at Oregon Health & Science University welcomes the idea.

"What it does is it gives this really important conversation dignity and standing," she said.

Patients in Oregon make their end-of-life directions clear on what’s known as a POLST form. Over the last five years, a quarter of a million forms have been submitted to the state POLST registry.

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