The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, generally referred to as HIPAA, was originally enacted to help more people gain access to health insurance and help employees keep insurance when they changed jobs. But a privacy rule added years later is what makes this law memorable for many people.
HIPAA restrictions do not allow health care professionals to talk about patient details with anyone who does not have special authorization. This makes it difficult for loved ones to help file insurance claims, get clarification about medication, or resolve confusion about the doctor’s instructions.
For that reason, a comprehensive estate plan should include a HIPAA release that allows trusted family members or friends to help with medical needs.
What Happens in Maryland Without a HIPAA Authorization?
Many people assume the stack of papers they sign regularly at the doctor’s office must include some authorization that allows close family members to talk to staff about their medical needs. Or patients assume that their relationship gives health care professionals grounds to talk to their family members about a patient’s condition, care or needs. Most of the time, these assumptions are false.
Unless patients have prepared authorization documents with the right wording, doctors and other health care providers are not able to discuss matters with anyone, including a caregiver or adult child. Any authorization they may have granted verbally in the doctor’s office or over the phone, or even on a form is likely to be very limited in scope. If a patient is transferred or receives care from another provider, a family member may be unaware of what is happening and unable to help at all. Information is kept private regardless of whether the patient wants to share it.
College students and young adults who are still insured under their parents’ insurance policies can have a particularly difficult time, because the parents are the ones signed up for the policy, but they cannot communicate with either the insurance company or health care providers about their children’s needs or billing issues.
Working with a HIPAA Release
An estate planning attorney can draw up a HIPAA authorization release to cover needs in many different circumstances. This document can allow trusted individuals to help with medications, speak with doctors, and assist in insurance claims.
Those with a HIPAA release should advise their primary care physician and other providers they see regularly. They should also ensure that other individuals named in their estate planning documents, such as trustees or agents, are aware of the HIPAA release and who it authorizes.
Of course, the individuals authorized in the release should know how to find a copy of the document should they need it.
Ensure that You Can Get Help When You Need It—Have Your Attorney Prepare a HIPAA Release
Being in a position where loved ones cannot help you or where they are kept in the dark about your medical condition is frustrating and frightening for everyone involved. You can ensure that those you trust are able to communicate about your medical needs if you have an attorney at the Law Office of Ralph W. Powers Jr., P.C. prepare a valid HIPAA authorization form on your behalf.
We invite you to contact us for a confidential consultation to learn more about how we could ensure that you have the estate planning documents you need to protect your future.