Medical Privacy Law and Your College-Bound Child

March 10, 2016 · Written By JFS Wealth Advisors

A young man goes to college.  Two months later he is rushed to the hospital and into the operating room for an emergency appendectomy.  His mother calls the hospital in a panic and asks to know what is happening with her son.  The hospital says, “I’m sorry; I cannot give you that information.”  She says “But I’m his mother!”  The response: “That doesn’t matter.  For all of our adult patients, we can only give information to those authorized to receive it, and you are not authorized.”

You probably already realize the need for a Power of Attorney for Healthcare (aka healthcare proxy) for yourself, listing who can make their medical treatment decisions if you are unconscious or incapable of making those decisions.  You may also be aware that Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) forms, which you regularly fill out at the doctor’s office when you have appointments, detail who can have access to your medical records.

What you may not realize is that your kids need to have these documents in place as soon as they turn 18.  At 18 they are legal adults, and no one gets access to their medical records or treatment information without express permission.

To avoid nightmare scenarios, take the following steps:

  1. Ensure you complete the Power of Attorney for Healthcare, listing a trusted person and at least one alternate in case the designee cannot serve.  Remember that when you update your HIPAA forms with your doctors, you need to include those same trusted people and perhaps other family members as well.
  2. Start educating your children about finance and investing matters as soon as they are old enough, so that over time they learn about building a budget, the value of compound interest, the cost of long-term debt like a mortgage or lengthy car payment plan, the benefits of regular savings, and the realities of paying for college. Then, as soon as they turn 18, make sure the now-adult children have a Power of Attorney for Healthcare and that they fill out the HIPAA forms at their doctor’s office.
  3. When an adult child goes to college, ensure the child fills out a HIPAA form at the Student Health Service and at the hospital in the town, listing their parents and perhaps other trusted family members as people who can have access to medical records.

If the aforementioned young man had these documents in place, his panicked mother would have been given full access to his medical records and the details of his situation. She would also have had the right to make treatment decisions on his behalf while he was unconscious and unable to make them himself.

Especially given the state of our healthcare system, you and your family members need to take control of assuring who has access to medical information and the right to make treatment decisions.

If you’d like to discuss this topic in more detail, set up a meeting with one our wealth advisors.

Amy Florian © 2016, Corgenius, Inc., all rights reserved