This is a headline that we hope to never read or hear: “My adult child is in the hospital and I need to talk to the doctor.” With HIPPA, you may never get that chance. Once you child becomes an adult—age 18 in most states—he/she/them are legally adults and, you, as the parent have no right to inquire about your adult child’s health care.
It doesn’t sound like a big deal but consider this: If your adult son gets into a serious car accident and cannot communicate his wishes—such as authorizing the doctor to speak with you—you will not be able to control his care or treatment. The reason is HIPAA.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.
Recently a couple of my clients have had their adult children be hospitalized. They were stunned when the health care providers refused to disclose any information about their child’s condition or care. It’s not their fault. They’re just following the law.
As I think about my daughter (age 23) or my son (age 20) I can’t help but wonder what we would do if we needed to help them while they are hospitalized or in the care of health professionals.
Don’t forget mental health, too. If your adult child needs counseling or treatment, once they are age 18, the counselor is not permitted to share any progress reports or updates on how they are doing.
Fortunately, there is something your adult child can do for you. They can sign a HIPAA release form. In Massachusetts, you can use the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Authorization for Release of Information form.
To use the form, your adult child will need to give you permission to access their health information. On the form they can specify how much and what types of information can be released and to whom.
This week my wife and I are working on getting our daughter and son to sign a release and put it on file. This is a good form to complete before your son or daughter goes off to college.
Let’s hope you never need it. But if you do, you’ll be better prepared to help your young adult children when they may need it most.
And don’t forget that you might want to have your aging parents sign a similar document so that you can assist them with their treatments, medications, and medical records.
If you have more questions about how to help your adult children (or parents), give us a call. We’re here to help.
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Lyman H. Jackson
Financial Planning Solutions, LLC (FPS) is a Registered Investment Advisor. FPS provides this blog for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, tax, or legal advice. FPS only renders personalized advice to each client after entering into an advisory relationship. Information herein includes opinions and forward-looking statements that may not come to pass. Information is derived from sources believed to be reliable. Information is at a point in time and subject to change without notice. Such information may not be independently verified by FPS. Please see important disclosures link at the bottom of this page.