The Obama administration, reversing course, will revise a Medicare regulation to delete references to end-of-life planning as part of the annual physical examinations covered under the new health care law, administration officials said.
The move is an abrupt shift, coming just days after the new policy took effect on Jan. 1.
Many doctors and providers of hospice care had praised the regulation, which listed “advance care planning” as one of the services that could be offered in the “annual wellness visit” for Medicare beneficiaries.
While administration officials cited procedural reasons for changing the rule, it was clear that political concerns were also a factor. The renewed debate over advance care planning threatened to become a distraction to administration officials who were gearing up to defend the health law against attack by the new Republican majority in the House.
The decision to drop the reference to end-of-life care upset some officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, who said the administration ought to promote discussions of such care. Such discussions help ensure that patients get the care they want, the officials said.
During debate on the legislation, Democrats dropped a somewhat similar proposal to encourage end-of-life planning after it touched off a political storm.