Know Your Health Care Rights

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Today our United States Representative in Congress Jim Gerlach visited our agency office. It was an honor to speak to him about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on his constituents as we see it. Since we visit people in their homes every day, we hear many different stories about the impact of health care reform. We spent the better part of an hour discussing the impact of health care reform on all the people we interact with, the challenges and benefits of home health services, and to see how we can be of service to the congressman.

It was a timely visit, on the eve of our country’s birth as a free and independent nation. We are blessed with so many privileges because of our Constitution and Bill of Rights that make us free. Let me share with you some of our conversation.

We spoke freely with pride about our fine, talented, professional staff that are in people’s homes working to help community neighbors, our patients. We want to maintain our ability to employ these fine people on our staff by providing them with an income and affordable health care insurance.

In speaking of our patients, the people needing our health care services, we spoke of the interest that people have to continue to be able to choose where they want to receive services and who provides them. Receiving these services at home is the most cost-effective option within the health care system. We also work very hard to help people avoid going back to the hospital by teaching them how to be in charge of their care, be independent, and remain at home.

We also spoke of free enterprise and the pride we have of being a small, locally owned business, run by people who know and live in this community. We asked to provide some input about issues and decisions that effect small business both locally, regionally, and nationally. Affordable health care is high on the agenda of every small business owner, and certainly at the top for us.

How lucky we are to have the right to speak freely and be received without fear of reprisal. I am very grateful. We are blessed.

That is how our nations Bill of Rights works every day.

But did you know there is a Patient Bill of Rights? The Patient Bill of Rights that was adopted by the U.S. Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry in 1998. Virtually any organization that provide services and bill Medicare and Medical Assistance are required to inform patients of these rights when they start providing services to the individual. Health Calls provides every patient with a copy that is maintained in a folder with other materials in the home of every patient we serve. These Rights apply to care in all settings: doctor’s office, outpatient clinic, hospital, nursing home, and in home care.

So what does the Patient Bill of Rights say?

Information Disclosure: You have the right to accurate and easily-understood information about your health plan, health care professionals, and health care facilities. If you speak another language, have a physical or mental disability, or just don’t understand something, help should be provided so you can make informed health care decisions.

Choice of Providers and Plans: You have the right to a choice of health care providers who can give you high-quality health care when you need it.

Access to Emergency Services: If you have severe pain, an injury, or sudden illness that makes you believe that your health is in serious danger, you have the right to be screened and stabilized using emergency services. These services should be provided whenever and wherever you need them, without the need to wait for authorization and without any financial penalty.

Participation in Treatment Decisions: You have the right to know your treatment options and to take part in decisions about your care. Parents, guardians, family members, or others that you select can represent you if you cannot make your own decisions.

Respect and Non-discrimination: You have a right to considerate, respectful care from your doctors, health plan representatives, and other health care providers that does not discriminate against you.

Confidentiality of Health Information: You have the right to talk privately with health care providers and to have your health care information protected. You also have the right to read and copy your own medical record. You have the right to ask that your doctor change your record if it is not accurate, relevant, or complete.

Complaints and Appeals: You have the right to a fair, fast, and objective review of any complaint you have against your health plan, doctors, hospitals or other health care personnel. This includes complaints about waiting times, operating hours, the actions of health care personnel, and the adequacy of health care facilities.

Some practical advice to assure that you are adequately informed:

Speak up if you have questions or concerns, or if you don’t understand information provided to you. It’s your or your loved one we are talking about and you have a right to know.

Pay attention to the care you or your loved one is receiving. Make sure you/they are getting the right treatments and medications. Don’t assume anything.

Make sure staff providing care are introducing themselves and you know what their credentials are.

Notice whether or not the staff is washing their hands. Hand washing is the most important way to prevent the spread of infections. Don’t be afraid to gently remind the caregiver.

Make sure the health care professional confirms your/ your loved one’s identity before giving medications or treatments.

Educate yourself about the diagnosis, services provided and the care plan. Gather information. Write down important information the doctor tells you and ask if the doctor has any written information you can take with you to look at later.

Thoroughly read all forms and make sure you understand them before you sign anything. If you don’t understand something, ask for a better explanation.

Make sure you understand how to use any equipment that is being used.

Know the medications and why they are prescribed. Ask about the purpose and ask for written information (can be provided by the pharmacy). However, you will want to ask questions before agreeing to have the prescription filled, so ask your health care provider. What are the benefits of taking this medication? Will it interfere with anything else I am taking or eating? Is there a generic form of this medication? Know both the brand and generic names of the medications. Know the possible side effects to watch out for.

Whenever a new medication is prescribed, tell your health care provider about any allergies and other medications prescribed to be sure that it is safe to also take the new medication.

Ask for a list of providers for services recommended. The hospital or nursing facility should not automatically assign providers for on-going care. You get to choose who you want for continuing care needs.

Happy Independence Day!

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