Medicare expert: end-of-life counseling issue wildly distorted

08/13/09 Mitch E. Perry
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In the past week, controversy over a particular provision in a House bill to overhaul the health care system has been dominating the headlines.

The provision would require Medicare to pay physicians to counsel patients once every 5 years. During those sessions, doctors could discuss how patients can plan for such end-of-life decisions as setting up a living will, obtaining hospice care or establishing a proxy to make their health decisions when they are unable to do so.

Yesterday Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley, the ranking member on the all-important Senate Finance Committee, told a crowd they were right to worry that Medicare reimbursement for end of life counseling by physicians might amount to euthanizing seniors

Today, he announces that the provision has been dropped because it "could be misinterpreted."

Robert Berenson is an institute fellow at the Urban Institute, a non-partisan research center. The Urban Institute recently released a report that found the government could save $90.8 billion over 10 years by better managing end-of-life care.

From 1998 to 2000, Berenson was in charge of Medicare payment policy and managed care contracting in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In July 2009, he became a commissioner of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC). He served as an assistant director of President Carter’s domestic policy staff and was a member of the Obama transition team. And we’ll hear more from him on this issue on a future Evening Newscast.

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