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Advance Health Care Planning: Who will make medical decisions for you?

advance directiveFall is here, which means pumpkin patches, apple orchards, changing leaves, cooler weather, and Halloween. Health insurance enrollment opens in the fall for many people as well.

As you review your coverage and make choices, you may also want to review, communicate, or implement permissions related to your medical wishes if you were unable to. 

Only one in four American adults has an advance health care directive. In stressful and grieving times, it can be challenging for families to assume what a person would have wanted in advance health care directives. 

As a cognitively healthy adult, you have the right to choose your medical care. When you cannot do so, advance healthcare planning allows you to express your wishes about your future health care. Advancing healthcare directives are legal documents that inform a doctor of a patient's healthcare wishes if they are unable to express them.

Anyone 18 years and older can name someone as their durable power of attorney for healthcare to make medical decisions on their behalf. Don't assume that a spouse, parent, or adult child will automatically be able to make medical decisions for another person.

Those with durable power of attorney for health care can make multiple decisions on their behalf, such as:

  • Making treatment decisions on your behalf;
  • Hiring or firing health care personnel;
  • Where (facilities and institutions) the treatment should be provided;
  • Choosing organ donation, autopsy, and what to do with your body after death.

A trustworthy person should be selected, and any medical wishes should be clearly communicated. Kansas law allows residents to fill out a simple form without the assistance of a lawyer or notarization, but two witnesses must sign it.

Individuals have the right to determine who has access to their information under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Medical records pertaining to your health status can be received and reviewed by a durable power of attorney for health care, but only if you cannot make decisions for yourself. You can provide permission for others for others such as family or someone who assists you with your affairs. HIPPA authorizations must be completed for each medical provider, facility, and plan.

I will explain HIPPA authorization with my health insurance plan as an example. In addition to myself, my spouse and child over the age of 18 are covered under my employer's plan. Without a HIPAA authorization form signed by them, I cannot ask questions or review explanations of benefits statements or out-of-pocket costs for them. For my spouse to have access to my information, I must complete a HIPPA authorization form.

Learn more about advance health care planning and Kansas forms:

K-State Fact Sheet: Advance Health Care Planning in Kansas: bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF3280.pdf

Advance Healthcare Directive Video: