Are Your Emergency Documents Available When the Emergency Occurs?
Making certain that you have an Advance Health Care Directive designating the person you want to make health care decisions on your behalf when you cannot, is important. Without this document, health care providers are at a loss as to what your wishes are. Their best guess may, in fact, be inconsistent with your desires.
In addition, there is another document commonly known as a HIPAA Authorization. The name is an acronym for “Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act of 1996.”This document allows those individuals listed on the document, chosen by you, to receive your medical information, which would otherwise be unavailable. BothFederaland California laws restrict access to your medical information without this document.
Unfortunately, these documents are often not part of the estate planning package when the Trust is created. However, even if they are, there is a more serious problem, availability.
These two documents are unlike any other document in your estate planning portfolio. These are the only two documents that are usually needed in the event of an emergency, but are frequently not available! Consider this, how many people make sure these documents are with them every time they leave the house, just in case they end up in the emergency room? Nobody I know does that. And yet when an emergency happens, and you are in the hospital, where are these two critical documents? Somewhere at home in a 3-ring binder. That’s like keeping your spare tire in your garage when you get on the freeway.
How Do We Solve This Problem Without Physically Hauling the 3-Ring Binder Around With You Everywhere You Go?
Many years ago, our firm discovered a solution to this problem. When each of our clients sign their Advance Health Care Directive and HIPAA Authorization, their documents are scanned into a website which we own and maintain. Then the client receives a plastic card, which is the size of a credit card. The name of this card is the “Medical Emergency Card.” Each card has three important pieces of information on it: a Website, a MembershipNumberanda Personalized Identification Number (PIN). When asked by the nurse in the emergency room if you have your Advance Health Care Directive, you simply pull the card out of your wallet or purse and hand it to the nurse. The card is self-explanatory, go to the website, enter the membership number along with the PIN, and immediately your two Emergency Documents appear on the monitor!
Let’s make it a little more difficult. Let’s pretend that you’re in the hospital, incoherent and unable to give the Medical Emergency Card out of your purse. How will the nurse know you have the card? The nurse will look for your driver’s license to identify you and look for any stickers on your license indicating that you are allergic to anything. Each of our clients is given a sticker when they receive the Medical Emergency Card, which is to be placed on the driver’s license. It reads, “Health Care Directives Available 24/7 See Wallet Card.”Upon seeing the sticker, the nurse also sees the card, right behind the license and after following the instructions on the card, these two emergency documents are immediately accessible.
Having the correct legal documents in place when needed is important. Having your Advance Health Care Directive and HIPAAAuthorization available when you need them is critical!