Will Signing a Living Will Affect My Health Insurance?

by Heather Frances J.D. Google
Medical decisions are between the doctor and patient, not the insurer.

Medical decisions are between the doctor and patient, not the insurer.

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Your health insurance company may benefit financially if you choose not to have life-sustaining care, such as artificial respiration or nutrition. However, your health care decisions are yours to make. Your health insurance company cannot dictate those decisions and it cannot force you to sign a living will or penalize you for not doing so.

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Living Wills

A living will is a document that communicates your health care choices to your physicians. Living wills generally address end-of-life care, including your preferences regarding artificial respiration, hydration and nutrition. Should you become mentally incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions, your physicians must follow the directions you left in your living will. Typically, living wills do not appoint an agent to make health care decisions for you; however, you can create a health care power of attorney or health care proxy to appoint someone to make such decisions if you become incapacitated. While state laws vary, living wills may require witnesses or certain specific language to be valid.

Health Insurance

Your decision whether to make a living will is a private one and no one can force you to create one. In effect, a living will makes health care decisions in advance and just as your health insurance provider cannot dictate the health care decisions you make now, it cannot dictate your decisions later. However, health insurance companies can refuse to pay for certain care if it is not covered under the terms of your policy. For example, your insurer might refuse to pay for a treatment it considers experimental.

Insurance Company Pressure

Your insurance company might prefer that you have a living will that limits your end-of-life care, but your insurer’s preferences do not give them authority to force you into making a living will. Your insurer also cannot make your health insurance policy contingent on your having a living will, effectively denying coverage to you unless you make one. Additionally, your insurer cannot increase your insurance costs or otherwise modify your policy because you choose not to have a living will. For example, the insurance company cannot raise your premiums or increase your co-pays or deductibles if you choose not to have a living will.

Living Will Terms

Just as your insurance provider cannot refuse or alter your coverage because you choose not to have a living will, it cannot dictate the terms of your living will. Within the boundaries of your state’s laws, your living will can contain a wide variety of provisions regarding your medical care and you can make it as specific or as general as you want. For example, Oklahoma law requires physicians to administer life-sustaining treatments to a pregnant woman under most circumstances, but Oklahoma allows a woman to alter this requirement if she states in her living will that she specifically wants life-sustaining treatment withheld during pregnancy. Only your state's laws — not your insurance company — can dictate what is in your living will.