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Medicare policy could lure doctors into end-of-life plan talks

As of January, Medicare allows doctors in Minnesota and the rest of the country to bill the government insurance plan for patient office visits based on end-of-life counseling. The value assigned for such visits is $86 and it covers the insured for up to 30 minutes of time.

The discussions can involve just about anything related to end-of-life issues. If you are unsure about what to have in an advance health care directive concerning the use of life support or how to pick someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you're incapacitated, you can spend some time with your trusted care provider and know he or she will be paid for it.

Make no mistake, these are issues that need to be discussed and it surely makes sense to be able to draw on the wisdom and experience of a trusted doctor when exploring options. But documenting the final decisions is something is a matter of law and so it's equally important to work with an experienced attorney that you can trust.

That Medicare now offers a reimbursement for these visits is seen as a step in the right direction by many experts. Some doctors have been offering their input all along. Now they can be paid for offering their professional opinion. Some observers say it might even inspire some in the medical field who have shied away from such discussions to wade into the water.

Whether it will result in a surge of end-of-life discussions in doctor's offices is something yet to be determined. Some medical observers say a lot of professionals don't feel they are trained to have these kinds of talks and so are hesitant to go there with patients.

While the flow of change may be glacial in the medical arena, individuals should know that there are skilled legal professionals ready listen and craft plans to achieve their end-of-life objectives.

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