Getting an effective plan in place to address end-of-life care issues can be a big challenge when someone gets older. That is why, as elder law attorneys, we encourage clients to address long-term care, Medicaid planning, and other issues sooner rather than later.

Earlier this month, a blue ribbon panel of experts released a study containing important data about end-of-life care. Governor Patrick commissioned the study to help analyze the impact of Massachusetts health care reform legislation. The experts involved included doctors and nurses, health insurers, and representatives from state government agencies.

One key finding was the large percentage of people who are still dying in hospitals, rather than at home. Although 70 percent of people in Massachusetts have said in surveys that they would prefer to die at home, the study found that 70 percent are still dying in hospitals.

The study did find that hospice care is covered by more insurance providers than it was ten years ago. But hospice care is still not as widely available as it should be. The panel has recommended that all health plans in Massachusetts expand their coverage for hospice care.

Another recommendation by the panel was for the state to initiate an education campaign encouraging people to appoint health care agents, and also to begin the process earlier of planning for end-of-life care.

Conversations about end-of-life care are never easy. But don’t delay them until physical or mental capacity declines significantly.

Source: “End of Life Care Analyzed in Massachusetts,” WAMC, 3-17-11