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Myths every married person should know about their healthcare

Marriage gives you certain benefits when it comes to taxes, health insurance and more. It can also give you social benefits: you can ask to switch seats to sit next to your spouse on an airplane or ask for other minor things. One of those things that seems like a given? You assume you can ask for information if your spouse is in the hospital.

In 2016, more than 125 million individuals needed to go to a hospital. These individuals are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as well as their state’s healthcare law. Minnesota law calls this a healthcare directive law. You may also know it as a “power of attorney” law.

These two pieces of legislation together cover every single individual admitted to a hospital, affecting their loved ones’ experience when trying to handle this challenging situation. There are some common myths people believe about going to the hospital for a loved one’s care, even if they know about HIPAA and healthcare laws:

Myth #1: Doctors will give you information because you’re married.

Most married couples assume that because they are married, the doctors will at least give them information. However, that is not the case. Doctors don’t have to, and in most cases, they won’t because they want to protect themselves from a lawsuit alleging they broke HIPAA rules. The lack of cooperation from doctors can be incredibly difficult when all you want is to know what is happening with your spouse.

Myth #2: Doctors will allow you to give input on your spouse’s care.

Again, it’s easy to think that because you are married, you will be able to give an opinion on your spouse’s care, and that the doctors will respect it. That’s not necessarily true. Look at the famous case of Terri Schiavo: after years in a vegetative state after cardiac arrest, her husband said that she would not want to live that way. He wanted the doctors to remove her feeding tube, but her parents opposed him, and it led to a years-long court battle.

How to get information and give input: the benefits of a healthcare authorization document

Unfortunately, once your loved one is in the hospital, it can be difficult to get the information you need. You may even be forced into an expensive and lengthy guardianship proceeding in probate court. It just requires a little forethought: you need advanced healthcare directive documents. They may sound intimidating, but they consist of two simple documents: a HIPAA authorization and a healthcare directive. A HIPAA authorization provides access to healthcare records, including information from the doctors regarding what has happened to your spouse. A healthcare directive gives the decision-making power.

These documents are not limited to married couples, either: they can protect you if you are in an unmarried relationship, or want your child or someone else you trust to have decision-making power. It is crucial to have these documents so that you can be sure your loved ones will have the information they need to make important decisions in the event you are hospitalized.


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