Health Highlights: Nov. 2, 2015

Health Highlights: Nov. 2, 2015

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Actor, Politician Fred Thompson Dead at 73

Actor and former U.S. senator Fred Thompson died Sunday at age 73.

He died in Nashville after a recurrence of lymphoma, his family said. Thompson was born in Sheffield, Alabama and grew up in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., the Associated Press reported.

Along with his TV and movie acting career, Thompson was a lawyer, prosecutor, Senate counsel at the Watergate hearings, and even a Republican presidential hopeful.

He was first elected to the Senate during a 1994 special election for Al Gore’s old Senate seat and in 1996 won a six-year term, the AP reported.

He appeared in at least 20 movies, including “In the Line of Fire,” “Cape Fear,” “The Hunt for Red October,” and “Die Hard II.” His TV work included the NBC drama series “Law & Order.”


Medicare to Cover End-of-Life Counseling for Older Americans

Medicare, the federally run insurance program for Americans 65 and older, said Friday that it will begin reimbursing doctors who work with patients to plan end-of-life care.

Numerous physician and health groups recommended the move. Some doctors already provide so-called “advance care planning” to patients without getting paid for their time, and some private insurers cover the practice, the Associated Press reported.

Advance care planning has gained increasing acceptance in the six years since the proposal was denounced by some Republicans as “death panels,” the news service said.

The Obama administration’s policy change could make the talks more common for Medicare’s 55 million beneficiaries. The counseling would be voluntary, and could take place during a senior’s annual physical or during regular office visits, the AP said.

“As a physician and a son, I personally know how important these discussions are for patients and families,” Dr. Patrick Conway, Medicare’s chief medical officer, told the AP. “We believe patients and families deserve the opportunity to discuss these issues with their physician and care team.”

Advance care planning wouldn’t just be for the seriously ill. It could include an ongoing discussion that might change at different stages of a person’s life. For example, someone who’s relatively healthy might want aggressive medical efforts if injured in an accident. But, if that same person were later diagnosed with advanced cancer, he or she might make different decisions as their health worsened, the news service said.

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