It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: the unexpected phone call telling you that your child has been in a serious accident and is in the hospital. Frantic, you prepare to leave to be with your child as you call the hospital to find out what’s going on.
And the nurse at the hospital says she cannot give you any information due to HIPPA regulations.
In the eyes of the law, your college student – the one who texted last week asking if you could schedule their dentist appointment when they come home – is an adult and legally, you cannot get any medical information about your child or make any medical decisions for your child without his or her consent.
That’s why, as you and your student are happily shopping for comforters and shower caddies, you also need to take time out to fill out a HIPAA Privacy Authorization Form, also known as a HIPAA Release form. This form acts like a permission slip. It authorizes you to receive information about your child’s health. It does not need to be notarized or witnessed.
Young adults who want parents to be involved in a medical emergency, but fear disclosure of sensitive information, need not worry; HIPAA authorization does not have to be all-encompassing. The young adults can stipulate not to disclose information about sex, drugs, mental health, or other details they might want to keep private.
It’s good to have two copies of the release: one that you send off to college with your student to provide to the school’s clinic or a local doctor and one that you keep on hand at home just in case the original document can’t be found when needed.
You may want to also go ahead and fill out two additional forms.
Medical power of attorney:
In signing a medical POA, you appoint an “agent” to make medical decisions on your behalf in case you are incapacitated and cannot make such decisions for yourself. Each state has different laws governing medical POA and, therefore, different legal forms. In many states, the HIPAA authorization is rolled into the standard medical POA form. Whether the medical POA requires the signature of a witness or notary varies state by state.
Durable power of attorney:
As an additional step, young-adult children might consider appointing a durable power of attorney, enabling a parent or other designated agent to take care of business on the student’s behalf. If the student were to become incapacitated or if the student were studying abroad, the durable power of attorney would be able to, for example, sign tax returns, access bank accounts, and pay bills. Durable POA forms vary by state. In some states the medical POA can be included in the durable POA form.
Hopefully, you and your child will never need to use these documents. But if a worst-case scenario does come to pass, having these documents on hand will help make a frightening situation a little less stressful.