Last updated by at .

Health Care Proxies and Power of Attorney

A Health Care Proxy is a document that designates an agent to make health care decisions on an individual’s behalf in the event that he or she is unable to do so. Federal regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), protect the confidentiality of an individual’s medical information as well as their ability to make health care decisions. The establishment of a Health Care Proxy and the HIPAA release form are the best means of carrying out health care decisions on behalf of loved ones.

A signed Health Care Proxy must contain specific language that allows an agent, the appointed medical care representative, the ability to act on behalf of the individual, or principal. For instance, if the principal would like the agent to be able to access his or her medical records, then the Health Care Proxy should explicitly state just that. Additionally, the signing of a new Health Care Proxy overrides any previously executed proxy. This is important to note because if the principal has a comprehensive Health Care Proxy, but signs a basic Health Care Proxy while at a hospital, it will essentially revoke his or her comprehensive Health Care Proxy that had been previously signed. This means that the comprehensive Health Care Proxy will no longer be a viable document and can no longer be used because it is not in effect.

Also, it is important to maintain a Durable Power of Attorney. A Durable Power of Attorney is important to have because, oftentimes, an agent is unable to deal with Medicare or Medicaid and other supplemental insurance companies without it.  You will also need a Durable Power of Attorney to handle financial affairs and to be able to act if the principal becomes incapacitated.  In these instances, a Health Care Proxy is not suffient and a Durable Power of Attorney is required for a third party to act on your behalf.

A Power of Attorney allows the principal to designate an agent to act on their behalf for financial matters. It is very important to have a valid Durable Power of Attorney prior to an individual becoming incapacitated because it alleviates the need to Petition the court for the appointment of a Guardian to handle the individual’s affairs when they become incapacitated.

In addition to a Health Care Proxy and a Durable Power of Attorney, individuals should also sign a HIPAA release form as well. This document allows anyone listed on the form to be able to access an individual’s medical records if needed. The HIPAA release form is accepted by most hospitals and doctor offices in the United States. By signing a HIPAA release form, it simplifies the process for obtaining medical records.

The attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. are skilled in all aspects of elder law and are dedicated to representing clients with diligence and compassion during emotional times. Contact the experienced New York elder law attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. for a consultation by calling them at 866-825-1LAW or vising them at