legislation introduced in senate would assist with advance care planning services
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Legislation introduced in Senate would assist with advance care planning services

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The Improving Access to Advance Care Planning Act was introduced in the Senate last week to assist Americans with access to advance care planning services.

According to a press release, Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and Susan Collins of Maine introduced the bipartisan and bicameral legislation to expand access to critical advance care planning (ACP) services in Medicare. The services allow beneficiaries, especially individuals with serious illnesses, to plan for their care and have choices.

The Improving Access to Advance Care Planning Act would help by allowing social workers to provide ACP services, remove beneficiary cost-sharing and promote increased education for providers on current ACP codes, and improve reporting on barriers to providing ACP services and billing the corresponding codes. The legislation was originally introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon.

“Decisions about care planning are some of the hardest for a family to make, but they’re also some of the most important,” Warner said in a press release. “One of my biggest regrets was not having early conversations about care planning with my own mom, who suffered from Alzheimer’s for 11 years and was unable to speak for nine of those years. I’m proud to introduce this bill because folks with a serious illness deserve to have a say over what their care should look like, and families deserve the certainty of knowing they are honoring their loved ones’ wishes.”

Collins said that most patients do not make advance plans for care in the event they are diagnosed with a serious or life-threatening illness.

“This can be a difficult topic for many families to address, but advance care planning has been shown to increase satisfaction and improve health outcomes because people with advance directives are more likely to get the care that they want, in the setting they prefer, and avoid the care that they don’t want,” Collins said in the press release. “The bipartisan bill we are introducing today would help provide an opportunity for patients to have a structured discussion with their health care providers about their goals and treatment options so that they can make their choices known and develop a plan of care in consultation with their loved ones.”

Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota joined Warner and Collins in introducing the bill in the Senate.

“I have been working to improve end of life care for well over a decade,” Blumenauer said in the press release. “Despite what was rated as the PolitiFact lie of the year during the Affordable Care Act debate over so-called ‘death panels,’ we won. Medicare has finally started paying physicians to help families understand their choices. This legislation will make advance care planning more accessible, allowing more of these conversations to happen and ensuring people’s wishes are heard, respected and enforced.”

“End of life issues are nuanced and complicated, which is why it’s so vital that older adults and families have good access to advance care planning,” Katie Smith Sloan, President and CEO of LeadingAge, said in the press release. “This bill is an important step toward greater, affordable access to planning that all Americans need. With members delivering care across all settings of aging services, LeadingAge recognizes the importance of acknowledging the preferences and beliefs of people and their families to deliver quality care. We hope greater access to these conversations will improve end-of-life and help providers meet unique patient needs.” 




Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.