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Dec 26, 2010 10:09 AM

"Death panels" return

WASHINGTON - A new health regulation issued this month offers Medicare recipients voluntary end-of-life planning, which Democrats dropped from the monumental health care overhaul last year.

The provision allows Medicare to pay for voluntary counseling to help beneficiaries deal with the complex and painful decisions families face when a loved one is approaching death.

But the practice was heavily criticized by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and some other Republicans who have likened the counseling to "death panels."

The "voluntary advance care planning" is included in a Medicare regulation issued Dec. 3 that covers annual checkups, known as wellness visits. It goes into effect Jan. 1.

The regulation was first reported by The New York Times.

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