Editorial roundup

The Akron Beacon Journal, July 19

… Medicare, the federal health program that covers 55 million older and disabled Americans, recently announced that it plans to reimburse providers for having such talks with patients. In that way, patients are in position to give clear guidance about whether, say, they want more aggressive treatment or something along the lines of home care and pain management.

The Medicare decision reflects a strong consensus. The American Medical Association and other major medical organizations support the change. Perhaps most decisive is the recommendation almost a year ago of a 21-member committee put together by the Institute of Medicine …

The committee proposed that insurers reimburse providers for conversations with patients on end-of-life care. It emphasized that medical schools begin to increase training in palliative care, doctors, thus, in better position to know how to treat patients more compassionately and effectively. In this instance, reimbursement isn’t enough. Providers must be trained to perform well. Otherwise, the risk is, the conversation becomes a mere box to check.

All of this is designed to generate savings, end-of-life care frequently the most expensive. Yet, most important, according to the committee, are the improvements in quality of life …

Too often, patients, families and friends feel helpless when all they seek is a measure of dignity as death approaches. Now Medicare wants to ensure a pathway to providing just that.

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