During our lifetime, many of us will face life-threatening or life altering illnesses or injuries, or perhaps we will watch those we love face them. We all want to be loved and comforted; we all want and need to be supported when we are seriously ill and we want a gentle and dignified passing when it is our time. Everyone is going to pass from this world (hopefully to a better place). We need a healthcare system that can provide support, guidance and direction to those who are facing these challenges. This system is called palliative care.
Palliative care is a medical specialty, which provides coordinated, comprehensive care to reduce pain and suffering for anyone who is given a life-threatening or life altering diagnosis. It is care to provide comfort and support for the patient and for the patient’s loved ones. This medical specialty differs from hospice in that you are not required to have a six month or less, prognosis; curative/restorative treatment, as well as complimentary treatments, are allowed and provided. Often this care is provided by an interdisciplinary team. It is care to help heal, if possible, and improve the quality of life for anyone who is seriously ill. It should start as soon as someone receives a serious diagnosis.
Recently I learned there are national PCHETA (Palliative Care Hospice Education and Training Act) bills, HR 3119 and S641 that need to be passed. Here’s a summary of HR 3119. These PCHETA bills would help to educate medical professions and help make palliative care become the Standard of Care for healthcare everywhere. These are some of the organizations that are supporting the PCHETA bills. www.patientqualityoflife.org (Click on members)
Palliative care was originally going to be a covered benefit in the Affordable Care Act. Sadly, without any understanding of this essential care, Sarah Palin called this care “death panels.” Mrs. Palin and some others caused so much fear and concern that it was removed as a benefit before ACA went into effect. Recently however, a bill was passed that would allow physicians to receive payment for essential conversations with seriously ill patients. “In a proposed regulation released July 8, 2015, CMS introduced two new billing codes—previously recommended by the American Medical Association—for advance care planning provided to Medicare beneficiaries.” This regulation would allow “physicians and other health professionals to bill Medicare for advance care planning, as a separate service, starting January 1, 2016.” It is a good first step!