Mark Warner | Enhancing health-care choices for seniors
I want to take a moment to keep you updated on health reform legislation I have introduced in the Senate.
Last week, I submitted a bill that will improve the quality and increase the availability of counseling, support services, and advanced care management for patients and families with life-limiting illnesses. I expect my proposal to be wrapped into comprehensive health reform legislation we’ll consider through the summer.
The “Senior Navigation and Planning Act of 2009” will help seniors and their families make more informed medical decisions as they navigate through a complex system.
Currently, we leave it to families to resolve these extraordinarily difficult decisions, often in moments of crisis, with little guidance or planning. By some estimates, 27 percent of Medicare costs occur in the final year of life. Studies suggest that the nationwide application of the enhanced care planning tools included in this legislation could reduce Medicare spending by an estimated $15 billion over 10 years, even as it provides more structured information and planning services to better support the patient’s wishes and improve their quality of life.
The Senior Navigation and Planning Act of 2009 will give patients and their families the tools to make more informed choices about their options and will increase the patient’s quality of life provide better support for family caregivers, and prevent unnecessary and expensive health care expenditures.
The legislation will:
• enhance Medicare and Medicaid coverage of advanced illness care management services;
• require doctors to provide patients with information on living wills and other planning tools;
• give providers incentives to achieve accreditation and certification in hospice and palliative care;
• encourage more comprehensive discharge planning; and
• increase public awareness about the importance of end-of-life planning.
My legislation has support from several major health groups, including the AARP, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Association.
This legislation will not deny health care to patients and families that want it. But I firmly believe that any comprehensive health reform package should include provisions that allow more information, counseling and resources to be made available to patients, their families, their caregivers and others, so they can talk about these issues and make informed decisions about when and how long to pursue treatments at the end of life.
This is just one of many steps we need to take to reform our nation’s health care system. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the coming weeks to implement these meaningful reforms.
Mark Warner represents Virginia in the United States Senate.