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null Who will speak for you when you can’t make health care decisions for yourself?

Who will speak for you when you can’t make health care decisions for yourself?

For Immediate Release:  2019-03-19

Contact:  Karen Feigel, (585) 238-4308 /

Nearly nine out of 10 upstate New York adults are aware of the term, “health care proxy,” according to a survey commissioned by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Among respondents who had heard the term, 89 percent know that it is a way to legally designate someone as your health care agent to represent you during a medical crisis if you can’t speak for yourself.

Despite high awareness and knowledge of the health care proxy term, the survey also revealed that only about four out of 10 upstate New York adults have completed a health care proxy form to designate a spokesperson who will represent them if they can’t represent themselves.

“That’s disappointing because so many people have had the experience of making gut-wrenching medical decisions for loved ones who were unable to communicate,” said Patricia Bomba, M.D., vice president of geriatrics at Excellus BCBS.

According to Bomba, advance care planning can make those decisions easier. “Conversations change lives. It always seems too early, until it’s too late,” she said. ”Advance care planning lets you authorize someone you trust to make your health care decisions if or when you can’t make them yourself.”

Excellus BCBS encourages all adults ages 18 and older to start conversations with their health care providers and then extend them to family members and trusted friends.

The goal is for all adults to have conversations and complete a health care proxy to choose and formally name a health care agent who is aware of their values, beliefs and goals for care and treatment and is willing to speak on their behalf.

“It’s not just for older adults or for people with a serious illness,” said Bomba. “Anyone can suddenly lose the ability to make his/her own medical decisions about the treatment they wish to receive, and what they would like to avoid.”

Bomba breaks advance care planning down into five easy steps:

1. Learn about advance directives (New York State health care proxy and living will).

2. Remove barriers to completing advance directives.

3. Motivate yourself by watching testimonial videos at

4. Complete your health care proxy and living will. Talk to your family and physician or nurse practitioner about what matters to you.

5. Periodically review and update your advance directives.

Excellus BCBS led the development of a free community website,, that includes information on advance care planning, free downloadable forms and instructional videos.

The health plan also actively promotes National Healthcare Decisions Day, observed on April 16, to encourage family discussions and advance care planning.

“Your family, friends and physicians need to know your preferences for medical care,” said Bomba. “Advance care planning gives you peace of mind in knowing that your wishes for care will be represented, and the conversations it stimulates also give your loved ones the confidence they’ll need to be able to speak for you.”  

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s infographic titled “Who Will Speak for You?” prompts advance care planning conversations between adults and their physicians or nurse practitioners. The infographic is being made available to doctor’s offices throughout upstate New York.

To start your own conversations, download the infographic, Who Will Speak for You? at

Additional advance care planning resources:

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Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 3,500 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit