Who would help if you were unconscious lying in a hospital bed due to an accident or a severe health problem such as a stroke? The Health Care Directive is designed to give you the assurance that someone you trust will be there at your side to assist physicians and other health care practitioners to provide the proper care for your condition. Essentially, the healthcare directive appoints another individual as an agent to make decisions regarding health care if you are unable to make such decisions or unable to communicate decisions to health care providers. It is similar to a durable power of attorney.
A health care directive contains no specific instructions as to which health care measures should be provided or withheld. It merely authorizes your agent to make all necessary decisions in accordance with your wishes that you provided to your agent. Of course, just after making your health care directive it is important to speak with your agent so that he or she understands your wishes should you need their assistance. Also, speak with family members or friends and your health care professionals who will be providing services to ensure that the decisions of your health care agent are respected.
Contained within your Health Care Directive is a HIPPA document. HIPPA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which is a federal law designed to protect the privacy of your healthcare records. Only people you designate can get access to your medical records. A proper HIPPA authorizes all health care professionals, insurance companies, and related providers to disclose and release to your agent all information that you are entitled to receive.
HIPPA is federal law adhered to strictly by all health care professionals and insurance companies because violating HIPPA comes with severe penalties. You are mistaken if you think that your family members such as your husband or wife will be able to access your health records without a HIPPA document designating them as your agent. Conversely, there are numerous stories where mothers and fathers who were not designated health care agents for HIPPA purposes could not get medical records for their adult children who had been in severe accidents. Don’t allow yourself to be in that position if your adult children wind up unconscious in a hospital bed so make sure they have designated you to have access to their medical records.
The Health Care Directive, including a HIPPA document, is included in a complete estate plan, but you can have one drafted separately. Call me today if you don’t have a Health Care Directive because the future is always uncertain but you can make it a little more comfortable with the Health Care Directive in place.