Living Wills Could Save Money Nationwide



On April 19 this year, the nation celebrated its first National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD). The National Healthcare decisions Day was designed to help Americans understand that making future healthcare decisions includes much more than deciding what care they would or would not want regarding their health. This initiative also advocates “expressing preferences, clarifying values, identifying care preferences and selecting an agent to express healthcare decisions if patients are unable to speak for themselves.”

In other words, this initiative urges Americans to prepare documents that will clarify your intent, especially when you are not able to communicate this directive because you are incapacitated. While most documents that declare a “Do Not Resuscitate” order if you do not wish to be resuscitated or placed upon life support, many individuals now see this alternative as an AND, or “Allow Natural Death.”

Although advance directives cannot reduce medical expenses for all dying patients, some studies indicate that life-sustaining treatments and other forms of end-of-life care can be extraordinarily expensive and an unnecessary strain on healthcare resources. Each year, for instance, Medicare allocates approximately 30 percent of its funds to the five percent of recipients who pass away during that year.

According to an ABC News article:

According to a recent study by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, America could reduce medical costs by $75 million a year if more cancer patients discussed living wills with their families or medical professionals before it became too late. Assuming these figures hold true for other groups of Americans, the potential national savings could be far greater.

Nathan Kottkamp, a healthcare attorney and founder of the initiative, boasts about the success of this year’s initiative that took place on April 16. According to new numbers, at least 3,755 people completed advance directive documents while the campaign exposed potentially millions of Americans to the organization’s message.

“[Living wills] save Americans money because we are more efficient,” Kottkamp emphasized. “This is not saving money because we are pulling the plug.” Furthermore, Kottkamp insists that reducing uncertainty in the medical process can “save tons of money by not involving lawyers.”

Government research, however, shows that living wills or DNR directives are not always effective. Roughly three quarters of physicians treating patients with advance directives were unaware they existed, and some doctors prefer to automatically resuscitate their patients to defend themselves from lawsuits. What can you do to make your wishes known?

Visit the NHDD Web site to learn more. This site also includes links to other sites that can help answer your questions. They also carry information on state-specific resources, although not all states are included.

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