Bennet, Bipartisan Colleagues Work to Empower Americans with Debilitating Illness or Condition

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and John Barrasso (R-WY), along with U.S. Representatives Diane Black (R-TN), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Chris Collins (R-NY), and Peter Welch (D-VT), this week reintroduced legislation to encourage Medicare beneficiaries to create electronic advance directives, legal documents that allow patients to articulate their preferences for their medical care should they suffer from a debilitating illness or condition.

"Life-threatening illnesses and injuries are devastating for both patients and their loved ones," Bennet said. "Advance care planning would provide seniors the support they need to manage their end-of-life care when they are most vulnerable. By encouraging seniors to make proactive plans, family members will face less confusion and more Americans will have ownership over their health care decisions."

Seventy percent of Americans have thought about their health care preferences should they face a life-threatening illness or injury, but only one-third have completed an advance directive (Pew Research Center, 2006). This bipartisan legislation would offer a small, one-time financial incentive to encourage Medicare beneficiaries to provide clear legal guidance to their medical providers and family members should they become incapable of speaking for themselves.

Under The Medicare Choices Empowerment and Protection Act, Medicare beneficiaries would be able to voluntarily create and register an electronic advance directive with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at any time. Advance directives would be created through, and maintained by, outside organizations certified by CMS, and could be modified or terminated at any time by the beneficiary. An advance directive would include any written statement that outlines the kind of treatment and care a beneficiary wants or does not want under certain conditions, and can include identification of a health care proxy. In addition, the bill would provide beneficiaries with access to a website with model advance directives representing a range of options.

To address concerns about confidentiality, the legislation requires both CMS and outside groups maintaining advance directives to hold the highest standards for privacy and security protection and system functionality. CMS would only keep track of the certified organization through which a beneficiary has created an advance directive and would not keep a database of these documents. The bill does not interfere with any state laws governing advance directives.

The bill is supported by the National Right to Life Committee, Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, National Partnership for Hospice Innovation, American Nurses Association, Third Way, Healthwise, MyDirectives, Center for Practical Bioethics, Get Real Health, Coordinated Care Health Network, Cerner and Altarium, American College of Emergency Physicians, and Zen Hospice.

Read a one-page summary of the legislation HERE.

Read the full text HERE.