In January 2016, the Obama Administration plans to override existing federal regulations by initiating reimbursement for Advance Care Counseling. The reimbursement will take effect in the form of a rule change, unless Congress takes swift action to curtail or reverse the rule this fall. As Texas Right to Life reported in July:
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is on-track to begin allowing physicians [and non-physicians]to bill for “end of life discussions,” or “advance-care planning” – counseling sessions that sound nice in theory, but carry the baggage of dark precedent. In our state since 1999, for example, the Texas Advance Directives Act has seen the nation’s most draconian results spawn from this seemingly innocuous agenda; instead of putting more control into the hands of patients as the law’s name suggests, the legislation awarded doctors and hospitals a frightening and untouchable right to supersede patient wishes and impose death at will.
Advance Care Planning is not necessarily anti-Life, and passionate Pro-Life advocates are able to use Advance Directives and conversations about medical treatment to ensure their Pro-Life values are protected and honored in a hospital setting when they lose the capacity to make their own decisions. However, this CMS program to reimburse for Advance Care Counseling follows the dangerous pattern of insurance companies, which have boasted about fiscal savings accrued by convincing patients to surrender basic Life-sustaining treatments – including assisted feeding. The federal government follows this shameful practice in attempting to establish the rule change that will reimburse physicians and even non-physicians for biased Advance Care Planning sessions.
The new CMS rules contain no patient protections or safeguards to require that these counseling sessions are non-manipulative, factually accurate, and patient-centered. Back in 2009, one draft of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) contained a similar Advance Care Planning reimbursement policy, which was rejected by members of Congress who knew these financial incentives would lead to abuse.
In response to the current planned CMS rule change, Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) has introduced House Resolution 3251. HR 3251 will strike the reimbursement for Advance Care Counseling, ensuring that such counseling is not abused to further an agenda of healthcare savings achieved by pressuring patients into untimely deaths.
Instead, HR 3251 redirects the conversation about Advance Care Counseling to the importance of patient autonomy. Allowing patients to make personal choices about their care requires an unbiased counseling curriculum. To that end, Rep. King’s resolution would present patients with all of their options and would use a curriculum approved by an interdisciplinary counsel that includes disability rights activists and Pro-Life advocates.
Please tell your US Representative to coauthor Pro-Life and Pro-patient House Resolution 3251 today.