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June 01, 2015

Health Planning

Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) introduced ABA-supported legislation June 10 to help ensure that individuals with advanced illness receive the support they need to make informed decisions about their treatment and care. S. 1549, the Care Planning Act, would authorize Medicare to reimburse health care professionals who provide a voluntary, structured discussion about the patient’s goals, illness, and treatment options. A written plan would be developed to reflect the choices made by patients in consultations with members of their health care team, faith leaders, family members and friends. The ABA, which has a long history of strongly promoting the value of advance care planning and the use of advance health directives, recently urged widespread support of protocols such as Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) and strengthening the Patient Self Determination Act. The association also supports legislation that promotes access to and financing of high-quality, comprehensive long-term supportive services for persons with advance illness. “The ABA supports the Care Planning Act’s emphasis on meaningful planning services as a regular component of care for Medicare beneficiaries,” ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman wrote June 12 to Warner and Isakson. The bill’s provisions, he said, “will give patients the freedom to make informed decisions about their care and ensure that these wishes are honored.” Susman noted that the legislation is further strengthened by including quality metrics to measure patients’ stated goals, values and preferences with documented care plans, and said that expanded portability of care plans is a major step forward in giving patients more control over their health care options. More than 40 health and senior advocacy groups have endorsed the legislation, which Warner said takes a “patient-centered approach by making sure more information is available to patients and their families, and by ensuring that patients have an opportunity to discuss their treatment options, plan for their future care, and make their choices known.”

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