Medicare is now paying for a new service for its consumers beginning this year – end-of-life discussions with a licensed caregiver. Many people avoid thinking or talking about the health care they want to receive at the end of their life, but these discussions can be very important. A large percentage of healthcare spending occurs in the final months of a person’s life and often brings little to no benefit.
Besides the financial burden families have, there is also a great emotional toll during the end of a person’s life. Added to these burdens, your grown children and relatives may have differing opinions on what kind of care you would like at the end of your life. Creating advance directives for health care and other binding end-of-life documents can help avoid these potential arguments.
The new advance care planning is a service that includes early conversations between patients and their practitioners both before an illness progresses and during the course of treatment. These conversations will help Medicare beneficiaries decide on the type of care that is right for them and help communicate this to their family members. Medicare will cover the discussion of advance directives with the patient, a family member, or surrogate when the counseling occurs in a physician’s office.
Medicare will pay roughly $86 for the first thirty minutes of counseling and $75 for an additional thirty minutes. When provided as a separately payable service, advance care planning is subject to a 20% coinsurance as required by law. Medicare will pay for advance care planning as part of the “Welcome to Medicare” visit. It will also pay for advance care planning as an option for the annual wellness visit. At all other times, Medicare will only pay for advance care planning when it’s medically reasonable and necessary.
The goal of this new service is to get more people talking about end-of-life wishes before it’s too late. Too many people die in a way they wouldn’t choose, and their family and friends are left feeling bereaved and guilty. It may be time to consider taking advantage of these new Medicare benefits.