Senate Finance Committee Hearing: Senators Wyden and Warner Emphasize Care Planning Act and End of Life Issues with HHS Secretary Burwell
February 18, 2016 11:53 AM
On Thursday, February 11, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the President’s budget proposal for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and received testimony from HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. During the hearing, Ranking Minority Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) emphasized the importance of the Care Planning Act (S. 1549) and end of life issues.
Last year, on June 10, 2015, Senator Warner along with Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) introduced a revised version of the Care Planning Act (see previous NAHC Report article here). First introduced in August 2013, the legislation was designed to give individuals with serious illness the tools with which to make more informed choices about their care and the power to have those choices honored.
Senator Warner discussed the need for the legislation at the hearing, adding that he and Senator Isakson have continued to receive broad bipartisan support. The cosponsors of the bill are equally represented by Republicans and Democrats, with three from each party. In addition to Senators Warner and Isakson, the cosponsors include Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Susan M. Collins (R-ME), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
“There’s not a member of the Senate that I have talked to that doesn’t have a personal story,” Senator Warner said. He spoke of his own experience with his mother who had Alzheimer’s for 11 years. Even as a “relatively well-informed citizen,” he said, his family did not have the conversations early on about care planning.
“This is an issue where the American people are candidly ahead of their elected officials,” Senator Warner said. “We still remain the only industrial nation in the world that hasn’t had this kind of adult conversation about care planning; about trying to make sure that issues around end of life are dealt with respectfully. But also recognize this is not about limiting choices but it’s about expanding choices.”
Senator Warner added that he was pleased that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) activated new codes to allow payment for advanced care planning discussions (see previous NAHC Report article here). “I was pleased to see that CMS introduced a payment form for physicians to have those kinds of conversations about advanced directives and POLSTs and the other legal entities that come out of those conversations. Those conversations should include family members, loved ones, and religious advisors.” Senator Warner said he is continuing to work with CMS “to make sure that these types of advanced directives can actually travel across state lines” so that the documentation is “built into your EMR.”
Secretary Burwell responded by saying that the leadership of Senator Warner, Senator Isakson and others has “helped create the space where we could go forward and make the changes that we have made in terms of the paying. We think that’s an incredibly important first step, but we know it is a first step and now the question is, how do you implement this so this is useful to the people and meets the goals and objectives that I know we share.”
Senator Wyden voiced his support for Warner’s efforts. “Senator Warner who along with Senator Isakson have really been in the vanguard of laying out some new policies to expand choices for end of life care,” he said. “What Senator Warner is talking about is—the centerpiece of end of life care should be about empowering patients and their families. And it is high time… Medicare Care Choices starts us down the path, but Senator Warner is absolutely right about several of the next steps, and I’m with you.”
NAHC has created a Legislative Action Center campaign that allows individuals the ability to urge their Senators to join Senators Warner and Isakson as cosponsors of the Care Planning Act. Please contact your Senators to cosponsor the Care Planning Act by clicking here.