Medicare coughed up $16 million in just the first six months of 2016 for so-called “end of life” counseling sessions.
These sessions, which doctors dun Medicare for up to $172 a hour, are supposed to center on medical directives and treatment preferences, including hospice enrollment and the desire for care if patients lose the ability to make their own decisions.
However, these sessions are under fire for essentially being the famed “death panels” where doctors urge seniors to refuse expensive treatment in order to save money on health care costs.
Controversy is threatening to reemerge in Congress over the funding, which pays doctors to counsel some 57 million Medicare patients on end-of-life treatment preferences. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, introduced a bill last month, the Protecting Life Until Natural Death Act, which would revoke Medicare reimbursement for the sessions, which he called “yet another life-devaluing policy.”
“Allowing the federal government to marry its need to save dollars with the promotion of end-of-life counseling is not in the interest of millions of Americans who were promised life-sustaining care in their older years,” King said on Jan. 11.
These “death panels” were first brought up in the debate over the failing Obamacare initiative. Public outcry over the implications of government control over these very personal choices meant the “death panel” idea was dropped from the final Obamacare legislation.
However, Obama’s bureaucracy quietly rammed through a rule in 2015 allowing Medicare to cough up millions for a version of these “death panels.”
The idea of letting Medicare reimburse such conversations was first introduced in 2009 during debate on the Affordable Care Act. The issue quickly fueled allegations by some conservative politicians, such as former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and presidential candidate John McCain, that they would lead to “death panels” that could disrupt care for elderly and disabled patients.
The idea was dropped “as a direct result of public outcry,” King said in a statement.
“The worldview behind the policy has not changed since then and government control over this intimate choice is still intolerable to those who respect the dignity of human life,” he said.