Soon, James and Erica will celebrate the graduation of their youngest child, Mia, from high school. This fall, Mia will head off to Louisiana State University to pursuit a degree in nursing. In addition to the typical list of items she’ll take with her to college, Mia will be well prepared with the proper legal documents.
What’s that? You weren’t aware that college-age children need legal documents? Well, they absolutely do because in the eyes of the law (if not their parents), 18-year-olds are adults. In fact, Mia (and her older brother before her) were in our office the day after they turned 18 to sign their health care and financial documents.
Legally speaking, your legal authority does end when your child turns 18. Your child likely still relies on you to help pay some bills, but you do not have a legal right to access their medical records and assist with making healthcare decisions without authorization by your child to the healthcare provider.
The first illness away from home, your child goes to the campus doctor. When you find out they are sick, you call to understand the diagnosis and get more medical information on treatment. However, unlike before when you were driving her to the doctor’s office down the street, the doctor now tells you, “I’m sorry, I can’t give you that information, but I’m happy to take your payment for our services over the phone.”
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules provide patients protection with respect to their health information, including important controls over how their health information is used and disclosed by health plans and health care providers. It is to ensure strong privacy rules are followed.
Paying for the health insurance alone does not entitle you to receive information about your child’s medical treatments.
As a parent, you should talk with your child about health care and financial decisions, involving a Health Care Power of Attorney, a Financial Power of Attorney, and a HIPAA Authorization for Release of Information, are properly drafted and signed. These documents will cover how decisions are to be made if your child is unable to make medical or financial decisions for him or herself. Also, the HIPAA Authorization will allow you, as their parent to receive medical information at all times.
So, while making that dorm shopping list, add an appointment (504-831-2348) for your child to come in and see us so they can fully understand their options for health care and financial directives. You will have peace of mind knowing you are able to receive complete information regarding your child’s medical and financial decisions, especially when you can’t be there.