It is high school graduation season and the transition plans for the fall college experience have begun. Commencement speakers and valedictorians will talk about “taking the next step into adulthood” as they pursue their dreams. Parents and the new graduates will make endless “to do” lists with the guidance of their own experience and expectations (and the new student handbook).
Parents will soon learn that although you pay the tuition and provide their support, they are already ADULTS and strict privacy rules apply. You will not be able to access their grades, tuition account, or financial aid information without their express authorization. You may provide “dependent” health insurance and claim them as a “dependent” on your tax returns for the next few years, but do not be misled - for privacy rules, they are an “ADULT”. You can no longer access information just by saying, “I’m their mother”.
What are your plans in the event of an emergency? Would you be surprised if you called the hospital and were told that they could not share any information about your son or daughter’s condition “due to HIPAA privacy rules?” Would you be surprised that you could not access their banking information or take care of other business affairs in the event of an extended illness or incapacity?
Because so many unknown contingencies have become realities for many parents, I strongly suggest that you encourage your recent graduate (or any adult son or daughter) to sign three important documents.
HIPAA Authorization - The Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information (“Privacy Rule”) establishes a set of national standards for the protection of certain health care information. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued the Privacy Rule to implement the requirement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”). Because of severe civil and criminal penalties health care providers may not share health care information regarding your son or daughter without their written authorization.
Medical Power of Attorney A Medical Power of Attorney will authorize you to make important medical decisions for your son or daughter if they cannot express their wishes or make the decisions on their own due to a temporary or extended incapacity. In addition, the Medical Power of Attorney authorizes you to obtain copies of their medical records.
Durable Power of Attorney-A Durable Power of Attorney will authorize you to manage your son or daughter’s business and financial affairs either as a matter of simple convenience or the result of a temporary or extended incapacity. You may need to act on their behalf in dealing with the school, financial aid, employers, Social Security, filing tax returns, or accessing or closing accounts.
The purpose of these documents is not to invade or compromise their privacy, but rather to facilitate your ability to make important decisions if they are unable to do so.
© Will Morris, JD, LLM 2014