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Thursday, July 25, 2019

Who Should Handle Your Affairs?


Have you taken the time to consider whom you want to name to help if you become incapacitated or pass away? Keith's Book, "Introduction to Estate Planning - How to Protect and Pass on Your Legacy," Bardolf & Company, 2017, provides some great insight:

Healthcare Agents

Healthcare decisions are often time-sensitive. So, you may name a partner or spouse as primary decision-maker and then someone who lives nearby as a backup. People often want to name their kids as backups, which may be fine unless they live across the country.

You may decide that there are several people who could serve as backup healthcare decision-makers and that you'd be comfortable with any of them acting alone. If so, you might designate, say, all three of your kids "individually or jointly," meaning that if only one can make it to the hospital in time to help, he can act alone.


Read more . . .


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Hospital Ordered to Pay $400,000 in Do-Not-Resuscitate Lawsuit


I saw the following article in the Great Falls Tribune this past weekend, as report by the Associated Press. The article, in its entirety, states:

“A Montana hospital has been ordered to pay more than $400,000 in damages to the estate of a man after jurors found the hospital, on two consecutive days, violated the man’s wishes not to be resuscitated.

A jury on Thursday found St. Peter’s Health in Helena and Dr. Virginia Lee Harrison negligent for violating Rodney Knoepfle’s patient rights.


Read more . . .


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Kids off to College? Key Legal Documents Needed.


It is the time of year for our children to be going off to college. What happens if the college student gets in an accident or is really sick when for away? Who back home can find out what's going on and make healthcare decisions? Keith Tokerud posted about this a few years ago but it's worth repeating.

The answer to the above is nobody if the child is age 18 or older. That is, unless the college student signs healthcare documents before leaving home.

One such document to sign is a HIPAA release.


Read more . . .


Friday, June 16, 2017

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) and its Potential Effect on Medicaid

The last few months have involved a flurry of activity from both President Trump and Congress over the issue of health care.  The House Republicans in Congress have been working on legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) also known as ObamaCare. In early May, they passed their version of the American Health Care Act (“AHCA”) which would repeal much of the ACA provisions.  The House bill is now with the Senate, and major revisions to the AHCA are expected.


Read more . . .


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Great Book about our Inadequate Healthcare System for the Elderly

I think a lot about the healthcare options we have in our "golden years."  I've just read a book on that subject that I highly recommend if you have the same concerns I do.  It is Being Mortal by Atul Gawande,  a Harvard Medical School professor.

This book discusses the issues facing us as we age, become frail and, for too many, end up in institutions where our quality-of-life is low.  Bottom line: our society - and healthcare industry -  have succumbed to a belief that, once we lose our physical independence, we no longer can expect a life of worth and freedom.

A keyword for all of us is home.   When you're home you get to decide how you spend your time, how you share your space and what happens to your possessions. Away from home you don't have any of this. This loss of freedom is what many people dread, the author says.

Just like anybody else, the elderly want freedom.  But what is our system set up to provide them?  Not freedom.  But safety. That may seem to make sense, but it presents the biggest problem for the elderly and frail.

In other words, safety has become everything.  We are institutionalizing our elderly in controlled and supervised situations all based on medically designed answers to solve problems that are never going to be solved.  So the elderly end up with a life that may be safe but is empty of anything they care about.

What do we, including the elderly, need to feel that life is worthwhile?  We have goals beyond simply prolonging our lives. It may be a cause beyond ourselves, something as small as taking care of a plant.  We also seek comfort and simple pleasures.  Surveys of the elderly show that their goals include avoiding suffering, strengthening relationships with family and friends, being mentally aware, not being a burden on others and achieving a sense that their life is complete.  I would add another word: dignity.

Our technological system of medical care totally fails to meet these needs.

The author describes facilities and experiments around the country where more is being done to meet the actual needs of the elderly and frail.  It gives you hope.  But, in the meantime, there is so much about our care for the elderly that is frustrating and just not acceptable.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

What does Obamacare mean for you?

I really don't want to debate whether we should have Obamacare in the first place, but in preparing for a recent workshop for our Peace of Mind Protector client service program, I asked my friend Bruce Lahti of the Junkermier office, who is an expert in the area, what I should share with our clients about the new program.  Here's what he said are the top 5 things to know about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if you have Medicare:

         1.         Your Medicare coverage is protected.
Medicare isn’t part of the Health Insurance Marketplace established by ACA, so you don't have to replace your Medicare coverage with Marketplace coverage.  No matter how you get Medicare, whether through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage Plan, you’ll still have the same benefits and security you have now. 
You don’t need to do anything with the market place during Open Enrollment.

         2.         You get more preventive services, for less. Medicare now covers certain preventive services, like mammograms and colonoscopies, without charging you for the Part B coinsurance or deductible. You also can get a free yearly “Wellness” visit. 

         3.         You can save money on brand-name drugs. If you’re in the donut hole, you'll also get a 50% discount when buying Part D-covered brand-name prescription drugs. The discount is applied automatically at the counter of your pharmacy—you don’t have to do anything to get it. The “donut hole” will be closed completely by 2020.

         4.         Your doctor gets more support. With new initiatives to support care coordination, your doctor may get additional resources to make sure that your treatments are consistent.

         5.         The ACA ensures the protection of Medicare for years to come. The life of the Medicare Trust fund will be extended to at least 2029—a 12-year extension due to reductions in waste, fraud and abuse, and Medicare costs, which will provide you with future savings on your premiums and coinsurance.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

At least one person thinks I'm right about medical records.

Don't let anyone ever tell you that spouses never listen to one another.  As soon as I posted my piece on medical records last week my wife, Becky, went into action.  She even wrote a guest blog post that I want to share with you.

Enter Becky:

When I read Keith's blog post last week on medical records, I had already started collecting my medical records, but I didn't have them organized like Keith suggested.  So I went to work and put together a binder organizing the records.  This may seem like a daunting task. However, you never know when you are going to have to track the last chest x-ray you had or the most recent blood work. Your binder, having medical information in one place, in your keeping, can make accessing such information relatively easy. And your efforts at organization will reward you.

Here’s what I have done and some suggestions for you:

1.     I made a list of my health care providers and appointments, procedures and tests that I’ve had.

2.    As to collecting medical records, with all the privacy laws you will need to complete some paper work and sign release forms to obtain any files.  Most large facilities like clinics or hospitals post the forms online. You can download them, print, fill them out, and then fax or mail them back. Smaller offices will often ask that you stop by and pick the form(s) up, or they will mail or fax it to you. I found records over 10 years old are often archived or lacking images. (They probably aren’t that helpful anyway). Health care providers are set up to do this. You just have to ask and follow the correct procedures.

3.     Keith suggested one binder, but I put my records into two binders. One, for my primary care providers, is organized chronologically. The other one is organized both chronologically and then by the duration of treatment, or event. With some doctors I have an ongoing relationship. They are in the front. The ones that were a one-time event, like a surgery, are towards the back.

4.     I used a large 3-ring binder, section tabs, pens, labels, and scissors. You'll also want to have standard office supplies like paper clips, staple removers, a hold punch, and tape handy.

5.     You can get section dividers that are a heavy colored plastic and have an envelope pouch built into the page. These work great for unused prescriptions or smaller papers or flyers. I included basic medical information in the front like my blood type, along with identifying stats like my name, birth date, insurance information and social security number. I suggest you add an index or table of contents to the front page of your binder.

6.     And finally include the list of doctors - and nurses - that care for you and their phone numbers. Often it is difficult to reach the doctors themselves, but you can talk to their nurse.

7.   As you compile the files it is a good time to review the documents. Perhaps you'll end up with questions or concerns as you read. Make a list of these. (It doesn’t hurt to make a doctor’s appointment if your concerns need to be addressed.)

8.  This notebook is for you. But it is also can be useful for someone caring for you, too. It can be taken to appointments for reference and be updated as you go along. It will be easier to maintain once you’ve set the system up. When you are finished pat yourself on the back for a job well done. 

Good luck and best of health to you.

Becky
 


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

You want the best health care? Take charge of your medical records.

The best way to get better health care?  Take charge!  Your doctor won't be offended.  You'll be helping your health care providers do their best work.

You probably already know this, but your medical records are really yours.  You're entitled to copies of everything.  You need to start collecting your medical records.  It will probably be uncomfortable when you first start asking for copies, but get over it!  It's important.

Make it a habit to get copies of the records of all your doctor visits, hospitalizations, tests, etc.  Staff can either give you copies right away or send them in a few days.  They'll do so if you'll just ask. Then put the records into a three-ring binder organized by health care provider.  Update the binder every time you get a new document.

Now, here's where your work will pay off.  Take your binder with you to your doctor visits.  

Then, when your doctor asks you when you first started experiencing shortness of breath, you won't have to rely on your memory.  You'll be able to show your doctor the record of your medical exam in 2002 when you first started having the problem.  Your doctor will be able to see what your condition was then and what the other doctor did for you.  Your doctor can help you way more today when she has exact information about your symptoms, test results and the treatment that you received way back when.

Yes, maybe your doctor already has the records from your earlier exam.  But there's a good chance she doesn't.

And, yes, it's not easy always asking for records, and it's a pain to organize the records and tote your notebook along with you to appointments.  But isn't your health worth it?


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Getting better health care.

As we age, we deal more and more with the health care industry.  More doctor visits and tests. More hospitalizations.  More medications.

And more questions, confusion and stress.

How can we get the best health care results?  Jon and I have been thinking about this a lot and learning what we can.  I'd like to share some ideas with you in my next few posts.

Of course, you know where I'll start: with having really good estate planning documents in place.  For health care, the most important is the health care power of attorney (where you designate who will make decisions about your health care when you can't).  You want to give a lot of thought to whom you name.  

If possible you should choose someone who can be your "medical advocate."  A medical advocate is someone who is willing and available to get involved in your health care.  You let your health care providers know who this person is and you make sure they meet your providers.  This person is in your corner, and you want everyone to know that.

Most importantly, your medical advocate should accompany you on all doctor visits and hospitalizations.  They can help you prepare questions before appointments and make sure you ask about what is bothering you the most.  If you are "out of it" they will be the ones asking the questions.

When the doctor gives answers they'll be making sure that you and they both understand the doctor's answers.  You'll want to make sure they know you want them to be persistent with your doctor when you don't understand at first what has been said.

That's a lot to ask someone to do for you.  And not everyone can help this much.  But, it's worth asking.  If you can enlist your healthcare agent to be your medical advocate, we guarantee you'll get better health care.


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