KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Grassley: No End-Of-Life Counseling Provision In Senate Finance Plan

Congress Daily reports that the Senate Finance Committee will not include in its version of health overhaul legislation House-backed provisions aimed at helping people plan for end-of-life care. "'We dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly,' Finance ranking member Charles Grassley said in a statement. 'Maybe others can defend a bill like the [Speaker] Pelosi bill that leaves major issues open to interpretation, but I can't.'"

The House provision would require the Medicare program to pay physicians to counsel beneficiaries "on end-of-life care issues once every five years, although the counseling sessions would be voluntary." This provision recently has "sparked a political furor," with conservatives describing these sessions as "death panels." Some critics argued that the proposal would "lead to euthanasia or rationing of care for the elderly."  

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's reform bill includes a provision that would allow anyone who participates in a voluntary long-term care program, which is established in the sweeping legislation, "to receive assistance creating a living will and assigning durable power of attorney. The long-term care program is also included in House version of the overhaul" (Hunt, 8/13).

Meanwhile, Sen. Grassley's office posted his statement.

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