The last few days of life are the most critical phase in one’s life. It is that phase of life where the individual virtually steps back into infancy and loses physical as well as mental strength, completely relying on the help and care of someone else.

Minimizing cost for maximum care at the end of life

The legal structure in the United States has defined the legal formalities by which there is an exercise of power of attorney with regard to medical matters as a health care proxy. This medical agent has been given extensive power to make any medical decision associated with the client, with a concurrent process of legal documentation.

Choosing the right agent is necessary to minimize cost

A health care agent is selected to be a person who can be reliable during critical situations to make appropriate decisions for the patient. The medical agent should be at least 18 years of age and should be able to act for the benefit of the patient. Selecting a proper health care agent to act as a proxy for the individual is a critical decision, as the person acting as medical power of attorney must understand the gravity of the situation and not exhaust medical and financial resources recklessly. Proper medical arrangements and budgeting should be planned wisely, striking a balance between expenditures and the financial budget of the patient. According to a Dartmouth study, medical care expenditure for patients with similar kinds of illnesses and levels of severity was 69% higher per beneficiary in Los Angeles as compared to Sacramento, California.

Many patients may have to go through a number of treatments or tests, so failure to budget accordingly will result in a difficult situation. Whether the patient is under the influence of anesthesia and thus in an unconscious state during an operation or the patient is in a vegetative state with little capacity to function, a health care proxy is required. The health care agent can make a number of decisions on behalf of the patient. It can be anything from approving medical tests, medicines, and surgeries, to accepting or declining the health support system. Even the mode of transport of the patient and a change in medical institutions or the right to allow the release of medical reports for further treatments and medications are decided by the medical proxy agent, and each choice has its own financial impact. It is important that you select the right person—someone who is not only capable of making crucial decisions during a crisis period, but also has a good sense of budgeting which ensures that the money is not wasted.

Expenditure of society for end-of-life care

It has been noted that expenditures vary substantially from one state to another depending on the decisions and budgeting capability of proxy agents. According to a Dartmouth study, in the last two years of the lives of patients with severe chronic illnesses, 13 states had expenditure levels greater than the national average while 37 states had expenditure levels below the national average. And among these 37 states, 14 states had 85% less spending than the national average.