Does Health Insurance Cover Life Support?
Health insurance may pay for some level of life support, depending on the specific details of each policy. Other factors that may come into consideration include the circumstances surrounding the need for life support and the lifetime limit on your individual health insurance policy.
Life support measures cover a wide scope of services necessary to keep someone alive. In some cases, those measures have ceased when the insurance coverage ran out.
What’s an example of life support stopping due to insurance?
A widely publicized case involving the discontinuation of life support due to the discontinuation of insurance involves an 11-year-old named Kyle Glover, the stepson of musician Usher. TMZ reported that Glover was remaining on life support only as long as the insurance company agreed to pay the bills.
Glover’s mother, who is Usher’s ex-wife Tameka Raymond, did not have funds to continue life support out of her own pocket after her son was pronounced brain dead after a water sports accident.
What life support measures are available?
Life support can include any number of measures that work as a means of supporting or replacing bodily functions, according to the Society of Critical Care Medicine. The availability of the measures depends on each particular facility, although the more common measures may be available at most hospitals or other critical care centers.
Different equipment can provide life support, with items that include mechanical ventilation units, defibrillators, and dialysis machines. Mechanical ventilation breathes for the patient when their lungs are no longer functioning properly. Defibrillators use an electrical shock to restart or regulate the beating of the heart. Dialysis works in place of the kidneys, filtering waste out of the blood and regulating fluid levels.
Other measures used to support or sustain life include cardiopulmonary resuscitation, commonly known as CPR, and some type of feeding process. CPR involves the use of chest presses and artificial breathing to restart circulation. Defibrillators may be used in CPR.
Feeding processes that are part of life support can include tube feeding or intravenous feeding. The former supplies nutrients via a tube inserted through the nose and leading to the stomach. The latter provides nutrients through an IV for patients that are not able to obtain nutrients through tube feeding.
The Encyclopedia of Death and Dying categories life-support measures based on the function they support. Measures can provide the same functions normally provided by the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, the renal system, and the gastrointestinal system.
Other forms of support include transfusions of blood or plasma and other blood products, and a wide array of medications. Life-supporting drugs can include insulin, anti-cancer medications, and a classification of drugs known as vasopressors. Vasopressors increase blood pressure when it dips to a dangerously low level.
What is a DNAR order?
DNAR stands for do-not-attempt-resuscitation and such an order is typically provided by a doctor as a means to follow a patient’s wishes. Those who have DNAR orders have decided they do not want CPR administered on their behalf. Although DNAR orders block the use of CPR if a person stops breathing or his or her heart stops beating, the orders do not block the use of other treatments.
When might life support not necessarily be the wisest option?
Although not providing life support or taking a person off life support is a monumental decision, there are times when life support may only be prolonging a person’s suffering. If a person has a condition that is curable and treatable, life support measures can be a vital yet temporary way to help him or her on the road to recovery.
Examples of a wise or proper use of life support include people suffering from neurological conditions or kidney malfunctions or failure. Life support measures can replace the functioning of a person’s failed lungs or kidneys, respectively.
When a person is suffering from a terminal condition that has no cure, however, life support may not be in the best interest of the person as it may only extend his or her pain. Such inappropriate or unwise use of life support is often known as “futile treatment.”
Treatment is deemed as futile when a person experiences several organ system failures or suffers from one or more devastating diseases. While most doctors have a clear ethical and medical understanding of what constitutes futile treatment, family members of the patient may insist upon continuing life support anyway. Doctors may oblige the family’s wishes so they do not face later lawsuits.
When it is unclear if a treatment may or may not work, patients and their families may confer with the doctor and set up a treatment plan that lasts a pre-determined amount of time. If the patient improves during that time, life support measures may continue to be employed. If the person’s condition stays the same or worsens, a joint decision may be made not to engage in further life support that would only serve to extend the person’s suffering.