Legal Briefing: Medicare Coverage of Advance Care Planning
Thaddeus Mason Pope
This issue’s “Legal Briefing” column covers the recent decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand Medicare coverage of advance care planning, beginning 1 January 2016. Since 2009, most “Legal Briefings” in this journal have covered a wide gamut of judicial, legislative, and regulatory developments concerning a particular topic in clinical ethics. In contrast, this “Legal Briefing” is more narrowly focused on one single legal development.
This concentration on Medicare coverage of advance care planning seems warranted. Advance care planning is a frequent subject of articles in JCE.1 After all, it has long been seen as an important, albeit only partial, solution to a significant range of big problems in clinical ethics. These problems range from medical futility disputes to decision making for incapacitated patients who have no available legally authorized surrogate. Consequently, expanded Medicare coverage of advance care planning is a potentially seismic development. It may materially reduce both the frequency and severity of key problems in clinical ethics.
Since the sociological, medical, and ethical literature on advance care planning is voluminous, I will not even summarize it here. Instead, I focus on Medicare coverage. I proceed, chronologically, in six stages:
1. Prior Medicare Coverage of Advance Care Planning
2. Proposed Expanded Medicare Coverage in 2015
3. Proposed Expanded Medicare Coverage in 2016
4. The Final Rule Expanding Medicare Coverage in 2016
5. Remaining Issues for CMS to Address in 2017
6. Pending Federal Legislation
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