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When should you discuss your advance health care directive?

A comprehensive estate plan can include an advanced health care directive, also known as a living will. This document describes an individual’s treatment preferences, such as hospice preferences and/or life-sustaining measures in the event of incapacity. A health directive may also designate a healthcare power of attorney, granting an individual with decision-making authority.

Recently, lawmakers also recognized the importance of planning for medical emergencies. Specifically, 2016 was the first year that medical doctors could bill Medicare for advance care planning conversations. Almost 14,000 health care providers billed for this service, which was provided to about 223,000 patients across the United States. Medicare paid almost $16 million for the service. That may only be the beginning, however, as there are around 57 million Medicare patients.

Notably, doctors are bound by some rules when conducting these conversations. Rather than providing a diagnosis, doctors are directed to explain the various options for care that are available to a patient at the end of his or her life. The conversations are not meant to disrupt any life sustaining care that a patient might need, or to obtain an official “no” to certain procedures. Rather, the conversations encourage a patient’s informed participation and consent. The conversations may also be conducted at any time, perhaps even during a patient’s annual wellness exam.

Our estate planning law firm helps our clients to understand the many legal options that are available to them when crafting an estate plan. Our work often begins with an overview not only of financial planning tools, such as various types of trusts, but also of options like a living will.

Source: MedCity News, “CMS study: Doctors had advance care planning conversations with more than 220k patients in H1 2016,” Jonel Aleccia, Feb. 15, 2017

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