ABA supports advance care planning legislation

The ABA expressed support April 1 for H.R. 1173, legislation to provide meaningful access to patient-centered advance care planning.

ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman commended Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) for once again introducing the legislation, which is known as the Personalize Your Care Act of 2013.

The ABA has promoted, for almost three decades, the value of advance planning and the use of advance health care directives by all adults, Susman said, and has adopted specific policies supporting protocols such as Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) and the strengthening of the Patient Self Determination Act. He explained that in the last few years an expanding body of medical literature has demonstrated the importance of recurring physician-patient-family communications as essential to making patients’ values and goals of care known and honored.

“Advance care planning is effective when it succeeds in identifying and respecting the individual’s treatment goals and personal values, particularly as individuals begin to confront serious progressive, life-limiting conditions,” he wrote. 

H.R. 1173 would provide Medicare and Medicaid coverage for voluntary consultations about advance care planning every five years or in the event of a change in health status. The legislation also would ensure that an individual’s electronic health record is able to display his or her current advance directive and/or POLST.

In addition, the bill would ensure that advance directives are portable so that those completed in one state are recognized in another state if care is to be provided. Other provisions provide grants to states to establish or expand POLST programs.

“Successful advance care planning is less about legal documentation and more about facilitating ongoing communication about future care wishes among individuals, their health care providers and surrogates,” Blumenauer said in a statement accompanying introduction of the bill.

Susman emphasized that the legislation recognizes that opportunities for consultation are an integral part of patient-centered quality care and that the quality of care for patients with advanced progressive illness is greatly enhanced when a systemic process exists that converts the wishes of these patients into an effective set of medical orders.


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