Parents of Young Adults: Why You Need to Care About HIPAA

One of the most common issues we hear about from parents of young adults is the frustration that comes up when a young adult is in an accident and lands in the hospital. It used to be that us parents could just call the hospital and ask about our child’s medical condition, along with requesting their room number. That all changed under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act), the privacy portions of which were enacted in 2003. You see, under HIPAA each person’s medical information is completely private once we reach age 18. That is often interpreted by medical providers to mean that even your own parents, spouse or children don’t have a right to your medical information … including whether or not you’re even at the hospital.

I’ve had multiple parents tell me horror stories about their child getting into an accident and the hospital refusing to so much as tell them whether or not their child is there and/or alive. So when each of my daughters turned 18 I did what any good estate planning attorney/parent would do: I drafted Universal HIPAA Releases for them, authorizing me to find out anything about their medical condition if they should end up in the hospital. After my youngest daughter left for college I was cleaning off some paperwork on my desk and discovered her unsigned HIPAA release. Oops. Before I could have her sign it, she went off on a mission trip in Mexico where she got food poisoning badly enough that they pulled her (and several other kiddos) out of Mexico and took them to a tiny town in Southern California.

Thankfully, my daughter was able to call me and let me know of her situation as she was on her way out of Mexico, but after 7 hours I hadn’t received an update and didn’t know exactly where she was. I frantically did some research and narrowed down the town where I thought she might be. Excited to finally get ahold of her, I called the hospital and asked if she was there. They confirmed that she was. Yay! So I asked if she was okay, to which they answered, “we can’t tell you.”

Can you imagine a mama bear when someone tries to hide her cub? That’s how I felt in that moment, but I knew that it was my fault. Thankfully she was okay, and when she returned home the first thing I had her do was sign that Universal HIPAA Release, authorizing me and the rest of her immediate family to find out her medical information if we ever need to in the future.

How about you? Have your young adult children signed HIPAA releases yet?  If not, be sure to contact our office by email, or call us at 719-520-1474 or at 303-736-6060.

Author Bio

Catherine Hammond is the CEO and founder of Hammond Law Group, a Colorado-based estate planning law firm she founded in 2005. With a strong focus on protecting families from the legal consequences of disability and death, she creates comprehensive estate plans that minimize taxes, costs, and government interference.

A native of Denver, Catherine completed her undergraduate studies at Coe College in Iowa, and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver College of Law in 1993, concentrating on estate planning, tax, and mediation. Catherine is a member of various professional organizations, including WealthCounsel, ElderCounsel, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the Colorado Springs Estate Planning Council, and the Purposeful Planning Institute. Beyond her legal expertise, Catherine provides transformational coaching to support clients and their families through life transitions.

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