One of the many facts of life, for everyone, is that life comes to an end one day. The end of life treats everyone equally. While it’s not something we think about, it is an important issue to discuss in advance. A family should not be caught off guard when a loved one suddenly becomes seriously ill or incapacitated.
Medicare and Medicaid have acknowledged the importance of these discussions and now allow patient-physician time for them. Now, patients can take time to talk about end of life with their physicians, because now physicians can bill for that time. That may seem unduly capitalistic, but the truth is that in healthcare today, the physician must account for every billable minute. These actions by Medicare and Medicaid have successfully made room for end of life discussions to take place. In 2014, the government discussed assigning two billing codes for end-of-life discussions between physicians and patients. The great news is that for Medicare Part B in 2016, the proposal is to allow 30-minute, billable discussions specifically for end-of-life planning between the patient or designated representative, and the physician. Yet another ICD-10 (billing) code would add an additional 30 minutes for discussion.
These changes give physicians more opportunity to help their patients and inform them about end of life options. It is one of the most personal, intimate times of life, and it is important that individuals know all of the options available to them. They range from a patient and family realizing their best course of action for the physical and mental health at end of life, to discovering the costs involved.
These new proposals make available to patients thorough explanations and choices of treatment, as well as expected outcomes. Patients will now be able to determine their own path in a more educated way. Self-determination, directing one’s own care until the very last moment of life is a precious right.
End of life discussions held prior to the time of need can be duly beneficial. If the worst is prepared for before the worst has occurred, a patient and their family can be well prepared to cope with the situation. All parties involved can feel more secure in pursuing or withholding treatment for a loved one who has become incapacitated, based on decisions already made and agreed upon by all.
The end of life is going to occur at some point to every one of us. For some, it will be dealt with time and again as we see friends and loved ones pass on. The trick is in how we all negotiate our own path through such troubling times, and feelings. To be prepared, is to be standing on a solid foundation.