In addition to the financial matters that you must attend to when planning your estate it is also important to address the realities of aging as they apply to health care. People in the United States are enjoying ever-increasing life spans and medical science can do amazing things, so Americans are routinely living into their late eighties and beyond.
When you reach such an advanced age it is not uncommon to go through a period of time when you are incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions for yourself. The way that this possibility can be planned for is through the execution of an advance health care directive known as a health care proxy. You simply appoint an agent to act for you in the event of your incapacitation and this person will be legally empowered to make health care decisions for you. Presumably you will have some discussions with your agent so that he or she understands your perspective as it applies to possible medical scenarios.
The wild card that exists when you are making these plans is presented by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. This law prevents medical insurance companies, pharmacies, and health care providers from divulging your person medical records to any individual or entity without your express written permission. Some hospitals and medical centers do not allow their health care providers to share information with the appointed agents of patients who have executed health care proxies for fear of violating provisions contained within the HIPAA.
The way that you can be sure that your designated proxy can interact with your doctors and make decisions in your behalf is by including a HIPAA release in or with your health care proxy. When this document has been signed the hospital’s HIPAA concerns are assuaged and your agent can then communicate freely with the health care providers and make decisions in your behalf.