When we think of our health and estate planning, we often concentrate on two big items: durable power of attorney and a living will, also referred to as a health care surrogate. While both of these documents are essential, we might also want to include a third type of document in our estate plans: a HIPPA release form.
Health care power of attorney
A health care power of attorney, also referred to as durable power of attorney, allows a person’s pre-designated agent to make health care decisions on behalf of a person should they become so physical or mentally unwell that they can no longer responsibly make decisions that are in their best interest. Agents under a health care power of attorney can access a person’s medical information.
Many people have a health care power of attorney as part of their estate plan, and it is a good thing. It allows them a measure of control over who will make decisions on their behalf during a vulnerable time. Their agent is likely someone they trust with their personal and medical information.
Still, health care power of attorney is only effective during periods of incapacitation. If a person is ill or injured, but is still capable of making decisions, they are responsible for make those decisions and their agent cannot do so on their behalf.
Also, an agent’s authority under a health care power of attorney might not last forever. Of course, if a person’s incapacitating medical condition is permanent or terminal, power of attorney will generally last until their death.
However, sometimes people recover. If a person recovers their ability to make decisions on their own behalf, their agent will no longer be able to make these decisions for them.
So, what happens if you want someone to access your medical information to help you out with your medical care choices although you are still perfectly capable of making decisions on your own? A HIPPA release can allow this to happen.
HIPAA releases are just as essential to the well-rounded estate plan as a power of attorney is. They bridge the gap during the time you are capable of decision-making until the time you no longer possess these faculties.
Did you know that your medical information is protected and private? Unless you have a HIPAA release form on file, no one can access or view your medical information except you and your treating physician. This includes even close loved ones.
Even in an emergency situation, without a HIPAA release form, your loved ones can only receive the “minimum necessary information” about your past and current medical care.
However, you can sign a HIPAA release form granting a specific person access to your health care information. The HIPAA release form will describe the information being disclosed, why and when it will be disclosed and who it will be disclosed to.
In addition, HIPPA release forms must contain an expiration date or event. So, you may need to execute more than one during your lifetime.
So, while having a durable power of attorney is an essential component of a well-rounded estate plan, so is having the necessary HIPAA releases. Both documents, combined, can help ensure the people you want to have access to your medical information will have it when necessary.