The Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, more commonly known as HIPAA, was passed with the goal of protecting your personal health information*. Before HIPAA, personal health information could be disseminated, without notice or authorization, for reasons that had nothing to do with a patient's medical treatment or health care reimbursement.
HIPAA sets standards that health care providers, health plans, employers, and clearing houses must follow. These include standards limiting the circumstances in which your health information can be disclosed to others.
LAUDABLE GOAL, BUT …
While this is a laudable goal, difficulties can arise when loved ones need to access your information. Consider these situations:
- What if you are in the hospital unexpectedly and a child needs to find out what has happened to you and whether you are ok?
- What if an agent for you under a power of attorney must show that you are incapacitated before they are legally allowed to act as your agent? Will they be able to gather the information needed to prove that they have the power to act?
- What if a parent needs a copy of your medical bills so they can be paid?
Will your child, parent, or loved one have access to the information they need? In many cases, they may not.
HIPAA AUTHORIZATION TO THE RESCUE
Fortunately, a properly drafted HIPAA authorization allows you to specify who should have access to your information. I generally recommend that my clients execute a HIPAA authorization naming their spouse or significant other, and their children. Depending on the situation, it may also be appropriate to name parents and even close friends in the HIPAA authorization as well.
A properly drafted HIPAA Authorization includes the following information:
- A description of the information to be released, such medical records and medical bills.
- Who may request information.
- Who may receive the requested information.
- The purpose of the disclosure.
- An expiration date or expiration event.
- A statement that the individual has the right to revoke the authorization.
- A warning that the information disclosed pursuant to the authorization will not be protected by HIPAA from re-disclosure by the recipient.
- The patient’s signature.
- The date of signing.
WHEN TO PREPARE A HIPAA AUTHORIZATION
Like most estate planning documents, it is important that you have your HIPAA authorization drafted before it is actually needed. If you become incapacitated or are otherwise not available, your loved ones may be left in the dark.
The Law Office of Brandon S. Glosson prepares HIPAA Authorizations as part of our Estate Planning Services. We would also be happy to assist you with adding an HIPAA Authorization to an existing plan. To schedule an appointment with an estate planning attorney at the Law Office of Brandon S. Glosson, please give us a call at (210) 802-5288, or complete the contact form on our home page.
*More technically, this is known as Protected Health Information or Individually Identifiable Health Information.