Aging committee to look into end-of-life issues

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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) on Wednesday will chair a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing into the legal environment, laws and barriers surrounding end-of-life decision-making.

Whitehouse, who will share personal experiences relating to end-of-life care and decision-making, will host a panel of legal and care experts from the American Bar Association, the Center to Advance Palliative Care, the Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research and BlueCross BlueShield. Much of the discussion will center on the various ways in which patients document their final wishes and the role of nursing providers and hospice workers in that process. The hearing will take place tomorrow at the Dirksen Senate Office Building at 10:30am.

Meanwhile, a Medicare revision that adjusts the 10-year-old hospice wage index could go into effect Oct. 1. Medicare officials have said the revision will save $2.18 billion over five years, but a 2007 study from Duke University finds that hospice care actually saves Medicare $2,300 per patient, or more than $2 billion annually (McKnight's, 11/9/07). Opponents of the revision recently introduced a bill that would block it from taking effect until after 2009.