Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Senior Navigation and Planning Act of 2009 (S.B. 1251)

On Thursday, Senator Mark Warner (VA) introduced S.B.1251, the Senior Navigation and Planning Act of 2009. Key objectives of the legislation include:

  • Expanding Medicare's hospice benefits. A "transitional care" benefit would be available for terminally ill people expected to die within 18 months. Currently, Medicare covers hospice for people with a life expectancy of six months or less.
  • Providing better education on living wills, counseling for dying patients and respite care for their families through that benefit.
  • Requiring doctors, beginning in 2014, to offer certain Medicare patients, such as those with end-stage cancer, renal disease and congestive heart failure, information about advance directives and other planning tools. Doctors who failed to provide the information would not receive Medicare reimbursements.

(Description from the Congressional Record, June 11th at S6558. GPO has not yet released the bill text.)

Warner said he wanted to submit the legislation at this time because Congress is considering health-care reform. He'd like to see some of the ideas incorporated into that legislation. Warner said his concern is that people wait until they are in crisis to make end-of-life care decisions and that such planning needs to take place sooner in the process. "This is not a savings-driven issue, but a quality-of-life issue." (Virginian-Pilot).

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