Rules & Language: HIPAA

Understand Important College health Documents

For most of your college student’s life you, as guardian, had parental responsibility and certain rights.  Now that they’re legal adults, parents’ information rights are restricted. However, there are times when access to their health records is important for their own good. After all, you sometimes make health decisions for others in your life, such as your spouse, partner, or elderly parent in emergencies.

Here’s what you need to need to know about forms for accessing health information:

General HIPAA Health Record Rules

Without legal forms filled out, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects the privacy of medical records. As soon as your child turns 18, you can’t access their medical information even if using your health insurance.

Your student’s visits to the college health and counseling centers — or the family doctor back home — are confidential. In the case of a serious new or ongoing health issue, even in the case of a serious accident, you can’t join the conversation unless invited by your student.

HIPAA Authorization Forms

There’s a simple form your student completes permitting healthcare providers to share information with you. Generic HIPAA authorization forms are found online for individual states. This is a sample HIPAA release form for the state of New York. Fill one out for your home state and the state your student attends college. Send copies to your student’s doctor and hte school health center. It doesn’t hurt to have one on file with the local hospital as well.

The generic HIPAA forms aren’t notarized and typically include a section where the student can specify what kinds of information they don’t want disclosed (for example, about mental health, sexual health, etc.). Both you and your student should keep hard copies and store scans on your computer or smartphone.

EMERGENCY ROOM EXCEPTIONS: The safety and care of a patient are paramount. In the E.R., HIPAA restrictions may not apply if a patient can’t communicate. Doctors use their own judgment about sharing information with family members who are present. A phone call to the E.R. will probably be received differently — the person answering may not confirm if your student is a patient at the hospital.

Very Important Note: It’s always best that you get these forms ready as soon as possible, as you don’t want to deal with them in an actual emergency.

Durable Power of Attorney and Living Wills

If your student is temporally unable to make their own decisions, an unnotarized HIPAA form may not cut it. A Durable Power of Attorney along with a sturdy set of HIPAA documents include a living will may be needed. The durable power of attorney allows you to pay their bills and make decisions for them. A living will is generally about potential end-of-life decisions. End-of-life decisions may actually extend life, such as if your student is stuck in the hospital and needs you to access financial information for them. These forms can also be accessed online and may be state specific such as this one from Eforms. Because these are serious legal documents have an attorney or legal clinic look the forms over or review them with your doctor and a hospital in your area.

Bottom Line

One of the biggest ways parenting continues into college is helping in medical emergencies. Make sure you fill out the appropriate forms to stay part of the conversion and decision making process. Use the HIPAA form as a jump in point to discuss health insurance, energy procedures and finding in-network doctors if using your insurance while in college. The overall medical discussion could save lives and dollars.