Wednesday, January 5, 2011

As Congress Re-Convenes, an Administration Switch on End-of-Life Planning

As the new Congress is sworn in, end-of-life planning is back on the front pages of America's newspapers (see, for example, today's Washington Post article here).


Late in 2010, the Obama Administration announced the implementation of a new federal regulation providing that doctors' discussions with Medicare patients about their end-of-life options would be eligible for Medicare reimbursement.

The Administration's announcement provoked an outcry from opponents who said that the regulation would have an effect similar to the infamous "death panels" that were withdrawn from Obama's health care legislation prior to passage; the opponents complained that the Administration was trying to accomplish by regulatory fiat what it could not accomplish through Congressional approval.

Today's big development is that the Administration has reversed course and removed the short-lived regulation from the Federal registry. The Post reports that the Administration is blaming an insufficient notice-period, but it seems clear that the political backlash also played a role.


Leave aside the question of whether you think the federal government should be "involved" (via Medicare reimbursement) with end-of-life planning and other matters of political ideology: whether you are a Fox News conservative or an MSNBC liberal, discussing your care options -- and taking the step of clarifying your wishes to your medical and legal advisors and to the individuals to whom you want to entrust decision-making authority -- is an important step for everyone to take.

Greetings, Speaker Boehner...

Fare thee well, Speaker Pelosi...

WOW, that is a large gavel!