National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16

checkmark Fact checked Contributing expert: Leron Moore, Medicare consultant - Published: April 19, 2021

 

National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) comes around once a year to remind all of us about the importance of planning ahead when it comes to our healthcare. It’s an opportunity for us to express our preferences about how we would like to be cared for if we are unable to speak for ourselves.

What you should know

  • 1 National Healthcare Decisions Day is an annual event that reminds us of the importance of planning ahead when it comes to our healthcare.
  • 2 There is widespread availability of helpful resources to help you engage in planning for your future care.
  • 3 As a healthcare consumer, you can have a say in your care so that it aligns with your personal values and preferences.
  • 4 Medicare beneficiaries should engage in advance care planning and share their plan with their loved ones and healthcare providers.

Making decisions in advance about what kind of care we want is especially important for seniors, most of whom are Medicare beneficiaries. Seniors are more likely to interact with the healthcare system and need to access their benefits. It’s easy to put off thinking about your healthcare, especially if you have generally been in good health; however, living in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that we never know what might happen. And if we end up needing emergency or critical care, our loved ones may not know about our preferences because we haven’t talked about them.

National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) was established as a nationwide initiative in 2008 in an effort to shine a spotlight on the importance of planning for our care in advance of an illness or injury. NHDD falls on the day after taxes are due, a date familiar to most Americans. Just as you take time to prepare your taxes, consider taking time to plan for your care in case your health condition prevents you from being able to speak for yourself.

What is National Healthcare Decisions Day? 

National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is an annual event that highlights advance care planning and the widespread availability of free tools to guide you through the process of considering your options and preferences for future healthcare. As of June of 2016, The Conversation Project assumed responsibility for NHDD’s management, finances and structure. The Conversation Project focuses on enabling everyone to talk about their values and wishes for care from now through the end of life, so those values can be understood and respected by loved ones and healthcare providers.

Although most Americans agree that it is important to talk about wishes for their care, especially at end of life, only about one-third of us have had such a conversation, according to research conducted by The Conversation Project in 2018. Due to COVID-19, more people now may have a sense of urgency about talking with loved ones and healthcare providers, but haven’t done so. It can be hard to talk about our healthcare preferences because in doing so, we must face our mortality, but the payoffs of doing so can be significant and will increase the chances that what happens in the healthcare arena will be in line with your values.

To better understand NHDD, let’s review a few definitions of terms:

  • Advance Care Planning (ACP): the process you engage in to plan for future healthcare that is based on your personal beliefs and preferences. 
  • Advance Directives (AD): legal documents you complete that direct what you would want, and would not want, in terms of treatment of a serious condition, including who you want to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Examples include a Living Will, a CPR Directive, and a Medical Durable Power of Attorney.
  • Medical Durable Power of Attorney (MDPOA): The person who understands your wishes and is willing and able to advocate for your best interests if you are unable to speak for yourself. May also be called your proxy, surrogate decision maker, or healthcare representative.

The Conversation Project provides easy access to free guides with prompts to help you talk about things like:

  • what kind of medical treatment you are willing to go through
  • where you would prefer to receive care
  • who you would want to speak on your behalf
  • what your biggest concerns are about your health
  • how you define quality of life
  • what you want to make sure doesn’t happen if you are seriously ill.

Whether you have a serious illness now or not, taking advantage of these tools is a great idea to get you thinking and talking about your healthcare.

Why is National Healthcare Decisions Day important?   

Simply put, because you are important, you matter. NHDD promotes the idea that you can be empowered to have a say in your care. NHDD raises our awareness and reminds us that while it is never too early to express our wishes, it can be too late; especially if we find ourselves in a crisis situation.

As a national day in the United States, it urges us to remember and respect what it means to have our healthcare choices honored by our loved ones as well as our healthcare providers. It is a day to take action, to create ACP documents, to start to have conversations with our support team, if we haven’t done so already. Talking about what we want if we become ill or are injured can be freeing and may alleviate burdens that would fall on our loved ones if they are not prepared to make decisions on our behalf.

What are some things I can do as a healthcare consumer? 

You can have a say in your care. Reflect on your health journey so far, and document your goals and what matters most to you, so that ultimately, the care you get aligns with your values and preferences.

When you are admitted to a facility or hospital, you are asked about the status of your advance directives; that is, whether or not you have them in place and who would speak for you. Many times, you are in a crisis or perhaps at your worst when you have to make these decisions, talking with strangers who have a current snapshot of your health picture, but no idea of what really matters to you. Talk with your loved ones and primary providers when you are NOT dealing with a health crisis and have time to think through your options.

Although you cannot imagine every possible scenario of what might come up; for instance, would you want a feeding tube if there was a complication of a surgery? Or would you want a specific treatment, diagnostic procedure or blood test if your condition suddenly became worse? If your loved ones and healthcare team are already clear about what is important to you, there is a much better chance that your wishes will be honored.

Once you create your advance planning documents, you can simply revisit and revise them as your circumstances and wishes change. Ideally you would review these every year on NHDD:

  • If you have already engaged in advance care planning, review what you have and make changes if needed.
  • Access the advance care planning forms and tools available to you.
  • Have conversations with your loved ones and healthcare providers; talk early, talk often.
  • Choose a MDPOA and an alternate.
  • Let everyone know! Give copies of your plan to your loved ones and healthcare providers.
  • Look at Medicare healthcare plans that best meet your needs. Plan to join, switch, or drop your plan during the next available enrollment period.

How does Medicare help?

Medicare Part B covers voluntary ACP as part of your annual wellness visit at no cost to you. If ACP is provided to you as part of your medical treatment, your Part B deductible and coinsurance applies.

Medicare Advantage plans cover ACP with your doctor at your annual wellness visit, or a routine office visit. Copays may apply, depending on your plan.

Medicare offers a variety of healthcare plans that you can choose from, depending on what you need, as well as periods of time (enrollment periods) during the year for you to change your coverage. As you take inventory of your healthcare utilization and potential future needs and preferences, you can explore what is available in your area, and plan to take advantage of the next open enrollment period. 

Leron headshot
Contributing Expert:

Leron Moore, Medicare consultant

Leron Moore has guided Medicare beneficiaries and their families as a Medicare professional for nearly 15 years. First as a Medicare provider enrollment specialist, and now a Medicare account executive, Moore works directly with Medicare beneficiaries to ensure they understand Medicare and Medicare Advantage Plans.