Legislation to Encourage Advance Planning: It Is Time!

Caregiver hands
Caregiver hands

I just returned from a conference in Washington D.C. of a group caled C-TAC (The Coaltion to Transform Advanced Care). I co-chair their working group on Interfaith Spirituality and Diversity. It was a jammed packed agenda that was looking at a variety of approaches to the issue of the last few years of life and how to make things more humane, less costly and with a greater emphasis on campassion and patient centered care. In the middle of the day, over box lunches and networking, we were treated to a small talk by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR). He spoke about a bill that is backed by people from both parties (a rarity in itself) called The Personalize Your Care Act of 2013 (HR 1173). The bill speaks to the need to have comepnsation to doctors who discuss advance planning with patients and calls on this conversation to be updated on a regular basis. A key paragraph of the one-page summary:
“The Personalize Your Care Act aims to support advance care planning by providing Medicare and Medicaid coverage for voluntary consultations about advance care planning every 5 years or in the event of a change in health status. This periodic revisiing of advance care documents and goals of care recognizes that individual’s preferences may change over time. Also, should an individual develop a serious or chronic illness, additional curative and palliative treatment options may become available and the advance care plans should be updated to reflect the individual’s current circumstances and preferences.” The bill also calls for expansion, by states, of POLST (Physician Orders For Life Sustaining Treatment) and electronic medical record accessibility and portability.
I wanted to bring this piece of legislation to your attention as I think it is something that is worthy of follow up discussion and support. Any opportunity to encourage the discussion of a person’s wishes seems to be a worthwhile endeavor. Too many of us have experienced or known people who were caught in a painful circumstance regarding having to make difficult decisions in critical moments. The fact that the bill also asks that these discussions be updated every few years is important, given the chalnges in medical technology and one’s own wishes. Also, the Congressman stressed that this is not just for older adults. The discussion is valuable (and yes, much more difficult to begin) with younger people.
You can obtain this one page summery, I am sure, from the Congressman’s office in Washington, DC.
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min

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