Legal Needs for Your College Student – Part 3: Navigating Doctor-Patient Privacy

By Tracey Ingle on October 2, 2017 

Legal Needs for Your College Student – Part 3: Navigating Doctor-Patient PrivacyYour college student is enjoying life on campus – and hopefully attending classes! You’re the proud parent back home – checking in through texts and emails and Facebook – making sure your baby is happy, healthy, and at least occasionally eating something other than pizza!

And you’re excited that all the habits and values you’ve worked to establish seem to be paying off!

Now… imagine that your newly minted adult ends up in a medical situation and desperately needs your help. Unfortunately, once your child turns 18-years-old, they are legally an adult. That means that parents can no longer act on their behalf. Even if your child needs it!

Imagine you as a-parent-at-a-distance trying to help your child navigate the health care system and health care decisions. Sometimes it’s just easier if the parent can call the doctor to find out what’s going on. No dice.

But you don’t have to be out of the loop and leave your kiddo to fend for themselves!

Back in 1996, a federal law was passed: the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.  It became effective in 2006 and is the reason that every year we all sign off on having received a copy of the privacy policies of our doctor’s offices. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (or HIPAA) is essentially a federal codification of the long-standing patient-doctor privilege and was needed to govern the new age of electronically shipping information back and forth from doctor to insurance company and such.

That same law also gave patients the ability to waive their privacy rights as to anyone they saw fit.

You already know that your college-age young adult needs a Durable Power of Attorney to allow you to make non-health care decisions (read about a Durable Power of Attorney in Part 1, here) and a Health Care Proxy that allows you to make decisions about your child’s physical-self if there is ever a time they need you to by naming you their Health Care Agent. (Read about a Health Care Proxy in Part 2, here) but there’s one more legal document your child needs:

The HIPAA Release.

The reason this is so important is that a Health Care Proxy is only invoked if your child is unable to make or communicate or understand his/her own decisions.

That doesn’t apply if they’re healthy – but need help understanding the very adult world of healthcare. So if you’re trying to help them manage medical care or decisions, or need to understand the situation in order to make financial decisions, you might not be able to get that information.

In fact, without a HIPAA Release in place, the medical provider can’t even acknowledge that the child is a patient!

Now is the time to make sure that your child has an updated HIPAA Release in place. Your child needs to be home to create and sign one – but the paperwork doesn’t take long.  In fact, it’s usually a summary of whoever has been named in a Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy. Meaning, it’s a simple creation when doing all three at the same time.

And it’s worth your peace of mind!

While you’re getting the HIPAA for your college student set up, this is also a great time to review your own planning. Do you have a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Proxy to appoint someone to take care of your needs? What about a HIPAA for your own needs? (Or the needs of an elderly loved one?)

Stop waiting! You need to get this done as part of being a responsible parent and modeling that behavior for your college student.

Here’s the truth:

You don’t have to have it all figured out before reaching out to a lawyer – for yourself or for your college student. Be a Good Guardian. Promise to protect your family, in writing. Apply for a FREE Good Guardian Strategy Session and in a short, complimentary phone call you can get clear on what is what is your best next step.

Apply Here – And make sure your family is taken care of.

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See College Sollutions' Margaret Bolton Baudinet on CBS News.