Are your medical documents as hip as HIPAA?

Jul 2014

If you have ever been to the hospital or even a doctor’s office these days, you have probably heard the acronym HIPAA being used.  The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) is a medical privacy law to safeguard one’s medical information.  Generally, when you visit your doctor they require you to sign a release allowing the doctor to divulge certain medical information to insurance companies and other doctors. If you have children over 18, you will also need to have them sign a HIPAA form to give you permission to access their medical records and even talk to their doctor about their medical care.

In estate planning we also incorporate medical directives and HIPAA in some of our documents.  Whenever possible it is always important to make your own medical decisions.  However, there are occasions where you may not be able to do so.  That’s why we consistently recommend one should have a medical directive or medical power of attorney appointing a patient advocate.  When you are unable to make your own medical decisions a patent advocate steps into your shoes and makes medical decisions for you.  This document, which we call a Declaration for Medical Care, may be found on our website at under the Estate Planning section.

Certain language under HIPAA is necessary to have in the Declaration for Medical Care in order to comply with the laws relative to medical privacy.  Therefore, the Patient Advocate will be allowed to obtain one’s medical information in order to make medical decisions.

Another document we prepare is the HIPAA Release and Authorization.  This release allows one’s patient advocate or the agent under one’s General Durable Power of Attorney or the Trustee under one’s trust to obtain and receive medical information of the person designated.  This release is effective once it is signed.  It may be used in good or poor health situations.  For example, if a child was in possession of the document or a copy of the document and the child wanted to receive medical information of a parent, the child would provide the document to the doctor.  The doctor would be required to provide information or answer questions.  This is true if the parent was in good health or poor health. The same would be true in the reverse, where the parent of a child 18 years old or older would need a signed form to so the doctor would provide medical information regarding the adult child.

If your medical documents were prepared prior to 2004 I recommend you prepare new medical documents to comply with HIPAA.  I also recommend your estate planning documents be reviewed every few years to make certain your wishes are met.

While laws like HIPAA are meant to protect our privacy, you need to understand its ramifications regarding medical care for you and your family and ensure that you have all the proper legal forms filled out and signed so you are prepared for any medical situation in the future.

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