Sometimes even entities that should know better, such as health insurance companies, are confused by Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives for Health Care.
It is not unheard of for health insurance companies to become aware of the existence of a power of attorney document, and to then notify the agent under that power of attorney (the person given power by that document) that the agent needs to provide that Power of Attorney document in order to be able to make health care decisions.
This reflects a fundamental misunderstanding.
A Power of Attorney (sometimes called a General Power of Attorney, or a Durable Power of Attorney) gives a person the ability to transact financial business on behalf of the person who signed the Power of Attorney document.
In order to make health care decisions for a person who can no longer make his or her own health care decisions, in Oregon, we have what is called an Advance Directive for Health Care. This document is used to appoint what is called a Health Care Representative. In most circumstances, the person with authority to make health care decisions for a person who can no longer make his or her own health care decisions in Oregon is this Health Care Representative.
Even in cases where no Advance Directive for Health Care has been signed, it is NOT the case that an agent under a Power of Attorney has any such power to direct health care.
Even if an entity that should know better seeks a copy of a Power of Attorney, or writes a letter stating that they need a copy of a Power of Attorney in order to accept health care instructions, one should not cave in to such demands, or act in accordance with a fundamental misunderstanding of the law such as this.
If the situation needs to be resolved, particularly if there are not both Advance Directives for Health Care and Powers of Attorney, it may be necessary to seek the assistance of a skilled lawyer. Such assistance may also be needed if different people have been appointed, one as the agent under a Power of Attorney, and one as the Health Care Representative under an Advance Directive for Health Care.
Steven A. Heinrich
Divorce & Custody
Wills, Guardians & Elder Law
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