Medicare To Cover End-Of-Life Planning

The new year will be bringing changes to Medicare with it.  While it's long been a hot topic in congress, Medicare is just two days away from covering end-of-life planning.  Talks of the idea in the monumental health care reform faced fierce opposition from republicans.  Sarah Palin said the so called 'death panels' would determine whether people were quote worthy of healthcare.

But new provision this month offers Medicare recipients voluntary end-of-life planning.  Some local seniors saw that as a good idea.

"Somebody needs to know what that person wants," said Medicare recipient Vera Owens.

That means medicare can pay for patients' voluntary counseling with physicians.  They can meet together to discuss often painful decisions that face family members when a loved one is near death.

Carl McNeese says he loves his kids, so he doesn't want to dwell on the past.

"Quit looking at it, and forget it and go on.  Try to do the best you can," he said.

End-of-life planning isn't new to Medicare altogether.  It used to be part of a patient's initial Medicare visit.  But with the new provision, it's an optional discussion recipients can have each year during their wellness visits.  McNeese is going to look into it right away.

"Well, I'm gonna try to see a doctor next time a go in to my appointment," he said.

While some have called it morbid, Owens says it's good to look ahead.

"I've been close a time or two, that didn't seem to scare me," she said.

She says she's known people who didn't have things planned out when death approached.  She's prepared because she doesn't want her kids to go through the same thing.

At the end-of-life planning visits, seniors can let doctors know their wishes about their care.  The new regulation goes into effect on January 1st.

Spencer Blake, Newschannel 6