Sarah Palin's "death panels" are back. The brouhaha surrounding end-of-life counseling forced Democrats to cut it from health care reform, but now President Obama is quietly adding the same policy to Medicare by rewriting regulations, reports the New York Times. Under the new policy, beginning Jan. 1 the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive measures.
Health reform authorized Medicare to pay for annual wellness visits; the new regulation tacks on coverage for “voluntary advance care planning" to that visit. "Patients will lose the ability to control treatments at the end of life," predicts the leader of a religious ministry opposed to the proposals. However, Democrat Earl Blumenauer, the author of the original end-of-life proposal, says it will allow better dialogue between patients and their doctors. “It means that doctors and patients can have these conversations in the normal course of business, not as something put off until we are forced to do it,” he said.