(FOXNEWS) — WASHINGTON – Medicare said Wednesday it plans to pay doctors to counsel patients about end-of-life care, the same idea that sparked accusations of "death panels" and fanned a political furor around President Obama's health care law six years ago.
The policy change, to take effect Jan. 1, was tucked into a massive regulation on payments for doctors. It suggests that what many doctors regard as a common-sense option is no longer seen by the Obama administration as politically toxic. Counseling would be entirely voluntary for patients.
Some doctors already have such conversations with their patients without billing extra. Certain private insurers have begun offering reimbursement. But an opening to roughly 55 million Medicare beneficiaries could make such talks far more common. About three-quarters of the people who die each year in the U.S. are 65 and older, making Medicare the largest insurer at the end of life, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
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