Can you imagine sending your child to college this fall and receiving a phone call that he or she has been hospitalized for COVID-19? It may be every parent’s worst nightmare. With the coronavirus surging and students expected to flood college campuses in the coming months, the risk of infection is clear. 

That, however, may be only one concern. Without a HIPAA release, parents could be blocked from talking to their child’s doctors and accessing important medical information. What could be worse?

Most parents are used to tending to their children’s health care needs and they might assume that those responsibilities will continue after their child leaves home and attends college. Once children reach age eighteen, though, they are legally considered adults and subject to privacy protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA.

That means parents can be denied vital health information in an emergency unless they are specifically named on a child’s HIPAA authorization form. The authorization is essentially a permission slip that says who can, and cannot, receive personal medical information, and the kind of information that can be disclosed. 

When a college student designates his or her parents, they can be kept abreast of important developments and participate in their child’s care. They can also have the freedom to access their child’s health records and share their medical history. As you speak with your estate planning attorney together, be sure to inquire as to what other estate planning documents he may recommend as well.

Not all young-adult students, however, may be keen on allowing their parents ongoing access to their health information. College students tend to value their independence, and some may want to keep certain information private, such as mental health counseling, legal prescription drug use, and reproductive health decisions.  

No need to worry. With guidance, a HIPAA release can be designed to allow parents immediate access during an emergency, while also protecting certain privacies. Once a HIPAA release is appropriately drafted, signed and notarized, consider making copies and storing the original document on a hard drive or cloud server. A digital copy could be emailed or electronically transmitted at a moment’s notice and save valuable time. 

For more information on HIPAA issues and other important health care documents, contact our office today to schedule a meeting with attorney Alan Hougum.