Posted by:  Kathy Ryding

A new poll finds that some barriers remain for doctors to have end-of-life planning conversations with patients, a once-controversial subject that Medicare recently began paying for.

The poll from the John A. Hartford Foundation finds that forty-six percent of doctors who see patients 65 and older are sometimes unsure what to say in these conversations, which are intended to help patients develop plans on areas such as whether they want to be kept on life support.

Only twenty-nine percent of doctors say that they have had any formal training on talking with patients and their families about end-of-life care. The idea of paying for end-of-life conversations has been controversial in the past, leading to charges of “death panels,” but has since cooled down politically.

The Obama administration announced in October that Medicare would begin reimbursing doctors for these conversations, and the payments began in January. The poll finds overwhelming support among doctors for this move, at ninety-five percent approval.

Since reimbursement began in January, fourteen percent of doctors say they have already billed Medicare for a conversation.

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