Physicians to Be Paid for End-of-Life Talks

Under a new Medicare rule, physicians will be reimbursed by the government for advising patients on options for end-of-life care at annual checkups beginning Jan. 1.

Under a new Medicare regulation, physicians will be reimbursed by the federal government for advising patients on options for end-of-life care beginning Jan. 1, according to a report in the New York Times. The consultations, held during annual "well visits," may include discussions about implementing advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment, the Times said.

Early drafts of the Democrats proposals for healthcare reform included proposals that encouraged end-of-life planning. The proposed legislation would have provided physicians with specific guidelines on what they should say to patients about such things as palliative care, hospice and other services. But legislative language sparked a heated debate among law makers, with former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin calling them "death panels." As a result of the controversy, the proposals were pulled.

While the new law doesn't specifically mention end-of-life planning, the Obama administration has been able to achieve its policy goal through the regulation-writing process, the Times said. Section 1233 of the bill passed by the House in November 2009, which wasn't included in the final legislation, allowed Medicare to pay for consultations about advance-care planning every five years. But the new rule allows physicians to be reimbursed for annual discussions as part of the wellness visit, the Times reported.

Read more about the new Medicare rules on the Times website here.