New bill emphasizes freedom in serious illness care plans

Share this content:

A newly proposed bill aims to give people with serious and terminal illnesses more say in their care plan and provide Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement to healthcare professionals for holding discussions about a patient's goals, illness and treatment options.

The Care Planning Act of 2013 would encourage people to consult with a healthcare team, faith leaders, family members and friends to devise a care plan. It would also put structures in place to ensure providers focus on the patients' preferences.

Plans would have to be well documented before a patient leaves a healthcare facility, as well, to improve adherence across multiple care settings.

Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) introduced the bill, and the American Association for Long-Term Care Nursing was among the healthcare associations that endorsed it. Warner said the legislation came about in part from his own experiences making healthcare decisions for his mother, who had Alzheimer's.

“When faced with a serious illness, you want the freedom to control how you will live," Warner said in a press release. "The Care Planning Act will help align the care you receive with the care you want – no more, no less ... This patient-centered approach will help your doctors and your hospital know about the choices that you and your loved ones have made."

The Care Planning Act was one of several healthcare-related bills introduced in the days before the August recess began.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) was named co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease, and the group introduced the Alzheimer's Caregiver Support Act and the Missing Alzheimer's Disease Patient Alert Program Reauthorization Act last week. The Support Act would authorize grants to increase family and caregiver support systems and training around Alzheimer's disease. The patient alert program bill would reauthorize a federal program to quickly identify and assist those who wander due to Alzheimer's.

Another recently introduced House bill would amend the Social Security Act to recognize attending physician assistants as attending physicians to serve hospice patients.