Hint: It’s even more important than the FAFSA!
A young woman goes to college. Two months later she is rushed to the hospital and into the operating room for an emergency appendectomy. Her mother calls the hospital in a panic and asks to know what is happening with her daughter. The hospital says, “I’m sorry; I cannot give you that information.” She says “But I’m her mother!” The response: “That doesn’t matter. For all of our adult patients, we can only give information to those authorized to receive it, and you are not authorized.”
You know the importance of having a Power of Attorney for Healthcare (aka healthcare proxy) for yourself, listing who can make your medical treatment decisions if you are unconscious or incapable of making those decisions. You may also be aware that HIPAA forms, which you regularly fill out at the doctor’s office when you have appointments, detail who can have access to your medical records.
What you may not realize is that your kids need to have these documents in place as soon as they turn 18. At age 18 they are legal adults, and no one gets access to their medical records or treatment information without express permission.
You can envision how this could go wrong in several ways so to avoid nightmare scenarios, take the following steps:
1) Take care of yourself, first! Be sure that you have a current Power of Attorney for Healthcare, listing a trusted person and at least one alternate in case the designee cannot serve. Also be sure that when you update your HIPAA forms with you doctor, you include those same trusted people and perhaps other family members as well.
2) As soon as your (grand)children turn 18, be sure these now-adults (yikes!) have a Power of Attorney for Healthcare, too. Encourage them to name you—their parents—as their healthcare proxies and have them fill out the HIPAA forms at their doctor’s office. If you are a California resident, the state Attorney General has created a simple, fillable Advanced Health Care Directive form that is perfect for this situation!
3) When your now-adult children go to college, have them fill out a HIPAA form at the Student Health Service and at the hospital in the town, listing their parents and perhaps other trusted family members as people who can have access to medical records.
If the aforementioned young woman had these documents in place, her panicked mother would have been given full access to her medical records and the details of her situation. She would also have had the right to make treatment decisions on her behalf while she was unconscious and unable to make them herself.
In the rush and excitement of selecting schools, registering for classes and shopping for dorm room supplies, a Power of Attorney for Healthcare could understandably be missed. However, given the state of our healthcare system, you and your family members need to take control of assuring who has access to medical information and the right to make treatment decisions.
We wish your new freshman a safe and rewarding college experience and are happy to help you (or them) with this important form. Call anytime!
And, Hook ‘em Horns!