medical symbol, stethoscope, white lab coat

Expanding Health Services for the Critically Ill

Americans are living longer today than they have before in the history of the United States, yet people with advanced illnesses face a complicated and fragmented system of care delivery that can put them at risk for additional adverse results. Consequently, many people with advanced illnesses do not fully understand their condition or treatment options and are therefore unable to document their desires, especially in case they lose the ability to make health care decision.

Last month, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) reintroduced the bipartisan Care Planning Act (S. 1549), which would amend the Social Security Act to extend coverage of advance planning services to critically ill Medicare recipients, ensuring their healthcare preferences are honored. These services would be delivered by an interdisciplinary team who would work together to meet the physical, medical, psychosocial, emotional and spiritual needs of both the patients and the caregivers. For example, this team would help assist patients in defining and articulating goals of care, values and preferences as well as discussing and evaluating how a range of treatment options align with these goals. Services such as these ensure dignity for all people, particularly for many of those most vulnerable in our communities, at a time when they and their families need it most.

In his press release for the introduction of the legislation, Senator Warner shared how deeply personal this legislation is for him. His mother had Alzheimer’s for 11 years and for nine of those years, she did not speak. Senator Warner explains:

“One my greatest regrets is that we never had a full conversation about her wishes when she was still well enough to make them known. So I know firsthand just how easy it is to put these conversations off because it’s incredibly painful to imagine a loved one becoming so ill that he or she is unable to make decisions about their own medical care, This bill takes a patient-centered approach by making sure more information is available to patients and their families, and by ensuring that patients have an opportunity to discuss their treatment options, plan for their future care, and make their choices known.”

Pikuach nefesh, the preservation of life, is of paramount importance in Jewish tradition. This commandment most often points us toward intervention to alleviate suffering, including a physician’s moral obligation to treat a sick person. Providing the coverage necessary to ensure all patients have the professional guidance and services in order to plan their treatments in accordance with their preferences and values speaks to this Jewish value, and must be safeguarded by our healthcare system. Urge your Senator to co-sponsor the Care Planning Act (S. 1549) and extend coverage of advance planning services to critically ill Medicare patients.

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Jordan Dashow

About Jordan Dashow

Jordan Dashow is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the RAC. He graduated in 2014 from Tufts University and is originally from Plainview, NY where he is a member of Manetto Hill Jewish Center.

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