Unless you work in the medical field (or have been paying very close attention to all those forms you have to fill out when you visit the doctors office), you probably haven’t heard of a HIPAA authorization. It is one of the newest tools in the estate planning toolbox and is a must have document for everyone.
HIPAA authorizations became necessary due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. In 2003, the privacy rules from that law went into effect, requiring doctors and medical providers to keep your health information confidential. No more family members wandering into the hospital, asking “how’s my aunt?” or “how’s my dad?” and getting some answers. First they have to see if your name’s on the list.
Tip: Want the protection of a HIPAA authorization but don’t like the idea of family members having access when there’s no emergency? Just keep your HIPAA authorization private for now. It can be given to the hospital if something happens that makes it necessary.
The agent named in your power of attorney for health care is on the “approved” list. But what about the rest of your family?
If they’re not on the list, the doctor or hospital could be fined for sharing too much of your medical information.
So what is too much?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that a doctor is allowed to share information with your family and friends if the doctor “believes, in his or her professional judgment, that it is in your best interest.” Thanks for clearing that up, HHS!
Rather than try to predict what a doctor will or won’t do, use a HIPAA authorization. The HIPAA authorization gives you control over your medical information.
You decide who has access to what information and when you want them to have it.