So-Called Death Panel Debate May Reignite

A retooled provision of the Affordable Care Act is back on the table with intense debate likely to follow

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A provision of the healthcare reform bill that Democrats had to drop in order to get the bill passed is back on the table as a new regulation.

Beginning Jan. 1, Medicare will reimburse physician discussions with patients about end-of-life treatment options -- if the patient requests the service.

The original regulation was removed from the Affordable Care Act as detractors said such required counseling would lead to the creation of so-called death panels. The new rule calls for Medicare to pay for elective annual discussions regarding end-of-life care. Ironically, the original provision would have required Medicare to reimburse such consultations every five years.

Opponents of the measure said the provision would lead to government-encouraged euthanasia and death panels that would tell seniors how to go into hospice care sooner, of their own accord. Democrats were never able to effectively dismiss such rhetoric, and the provision was dropped, even though it received support from the palliative-care community.

A recent study from the VA Center for Clinical Management Research and University of Michigan, both in Ann Arbor, showed that only half of those who requested all-possible end-of-life care actually received it, while patients who wanted limited care or comfort care received it in more than 80 percent of instances.

A number of physicians agree that end-of-life talks should take place with patients.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 29, 2010
Last Updated:
December 29, 2010