tions to cover expensive interventions that they would not otherwise be able to offer.
Not everyone dying of cancer is covered by Medicare. The special case of children, analyzed by Hilden and colleagues (Chapter 6), demonstrates severe problems in securing and being paid for adequate palliative care through private insurers. Holland and Chertkov (Chapter 7) add that reimbursement for professional psychosocial care is poor to absent even in major cancer centers and is often excluded from medical and behavioral health contracts.
Some small-scale innovative demonstration projects are under way to test new ways of providing and paying for good palliative care throughout the course of fatal illness (e.g., see Box 1-1), but it is too soon to recommend a comprehensive set of changes (particularly for Medicare) without further experience, experimentation, and evaluation. A period of innovation, with thoughtful evaluation and learning, is needed in order to shape the care system and payment arrangements that would better serve cancer patients coming to the end of life.
Most U.S. physicians—oncologists, other specialists, and generalists alike—are not prepared by education or experience to satisfy the palliative care needs of dying cancer patients or even to help them get needed services from other providers (Emanuel, personal communication). The same holds for the other mainstays of end-of-life care: nurses and social workers. In a review of the education and training of professionals, Gelband (Chapter 9) reports that this finding is consistent with the lack of funding for end-of-life or palliative care educational initiatives, which has begun to change only recently. Needs in training and education were covered in depth in the IOM (1997) report Approaching Death, and some of the new programs have taken root from that report. Even in 2000, however, the programs are small and funded largely by private grant-making organizations, with little contribution by the federal government. Holland and Chertkov (Chapter 7) attribute much of the difficulty that patients find in getting adequate treatment to the fact that there are no training standards to prepare physicians to identify patients with distress, nor are there standards of competence for those who provide psychosocial and spiritual services at the end of life.
Most new physicians leave medical school and residency programs with little training or experience in caring for dying patients. In most cases, a few lectures are folded into other courses (in many cases in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, ethics, or the humanities). A few schools offer full-length courses on palliative care, but they are nearly all electives. Contact