KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Administration Reverses Federal Rule On End-Of-Life Planning

News outlets are reporting that some observers view the step an "embarrassing episode" for the administration and note that some of the rule's supporters consider it a "flip flop." All in all, the rule change and the reaction to it appear to highlight the continued politics that surround the issue.

The Associated Press: Administration Reverses On End-Of-Life Counseling
The White House official said the administration is now pulling back the language because there wasn't enough chance for all sides to comment on the change. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss what has turned into an embarrassing episode for the administration. End-of-life planning is already an accepted part of care for people facing terminal illness, and the administration's reversal is unlikely to have much impact on that. Longstanding federal rules already require hospital patients to be informed of their right to spell out in a living will or similar document their wishes about being kept alive by machinery if there's no hope for a cure (1/5).

Politico: Politics Trump Policy On 'Death Panels'
A federal regulation to pay for end-of-life counseling - dubbed "death panels" by critics - has been pulled by the White House, prompting charges that the administration is flip flopping on a good policy (Coughlin, 1/5).

NPR: The Many Lives Of The 'Death Panel'
It's hard to believe something called a "death panel" can have so many lives. ... [I]t remains perfectly legal for physicians to talk with patients during annual visits paid for by Medicare about how much or little care they want when facing a terminal illness. ... In fact, the 2008 Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act, which passed with bipartisan support in the House and Senate though enacted over President George W. Bush's veto, specifically added 'end-of-life planning' to the list of things that could be covered as part of Medicare's Initial Preventive Physical Examination (Rovner, 1/5).

CQ HealthBeat: Obama Administration Yanks End-of-Life Planning From Medicare Regulation
New accusations about rationed health care were about the last thing the Obama administration needed just as House Republicans swept into the House flush with plans to repeal the health care law. So language on end-of-life planning for seniors was dropped Wednesday from a Medicare regulation on annual physicals. But the uproar over this touchy issue may still provide GOP lawmakers with opportunities to keep flinging charges at Democrats and the administration. At the same time, supporters of the full rule were frustrated by the notion that Democrats should backtrack on the concept of advance voluntary planning for the complex issues surrounding the end of life, planning that many health care providers increasingly advocate (Norman, 1/5).

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