Blue Cross Breaks New Ground With End-of-Life Benefits

The largest health insurer in Massachusetts has announced it will soon provide some of the most comprehensive end-of-life benefits in the country, with expanded hospice and home care as a likely outcome.

And the insurer’s CEO had personal reasons for doing so.

Starting Jan. 1, 2016, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts will cover more counseling sessions between patients and providers to talk about end-of-life care and expand access to hospice services. The insurer is also creating a home care program expected to start later in the year, The Boston Globe reported.

Specifically, Blue Cross will cover costs of visits with social workers, psychologists and other mental health workers, during which patients can consider where and how they want to die. Blue Cross plans to pay for these end-of-life counseling sessions for any of its 2.8 million members who opt to have one, regardless of whether they are sick.

“All patients should be thinking about it,” Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts President and CEO Andrew Dreyfus told the Globe.

Blue Cross also announced it will expand hospice eligibility to patients anticipated to live 12 months or less. Currently, patients are eligible for hospice when they are estimated to have six months to live.

Dreyfus revealed Blue Cross’ efforts to expand end-of-life benefits were partly inspired by his own experience of witnessing his parents and brother succumb to illness.

“Each of these losses was excruciating, but my grief was softened because my parents and brother made decisions about their care and died gently, free from invasive medical treatment and touched by loved ones until the very end,” he wrote in an essay published in the Globe. “Unfortunately, their experiences are not typical.”

Written by Mary Kate Nelson