Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”), the federal government allowed individuals to name personal representatives who would have various rights as it relates to access to their health care and treatment information. In order to provide for your family members’ ability to communicate with health care professionals and health insurance companies, it is very important that an individual executes a HIPAA release as part of their estate plan. We always recommend that clients execute a HIPAA form at the same time they execute their other estate planning documents.
In this HIPAA release document, an individual names a personal agent who is to be treated as if they were the individual themself, with respect to the rights regarding the use and disclosure of what is defined as identifiable health information or other medical records. Specifically, that individual authorizes any physician, health care professional, dentist, health plan, hospital, clinic, laboratory, pharmacy, or other covered health care provider, any insurance company or other health care clearinghouse that has provided treatment or services to the individual or that has paid for or is seeking payment from the individual for such services to give, disclose, and release to the agent, without restriction, all of the individual’s identifiable health information and medical records regarding any past, present, or future medical or mental health condition.
For example, this type of document will allow the personal representative to communicate with health care personnel about the individual’s health status if they are either in a hospital or other medical or long-term care facility. Generally speaking, I suggest that individuals have this document and name their spouse and all of their children so that these family members can communicate with doctors and nurses and find out how they are doing if they are ever hospitalized or in a long-term nursing facility. This is especially important for family members who are not local and wish to remain involved in their parent’s care.
In addition, this HIPAA form also allows the personal representatives to assist the individual with the voluminous amount of paperwork that can occur when an individual is in the hospital and has their medical bills running through their health insurance providers such as Medicare and secondary insurance. This allows the personal representative to communicate directly with those health insurance providers and insurance companies and assist with determining what exactly has been paid and what is still due and owing for the individual.
Therefore, please make sure that your estate plan includes a HIPAA release authorization in which you name a personal representative as someone who can find out your health care information and assist you if needed in all of your health care activities.
NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.
James F. Contini II, Esq.
Certified Specialist in Estate Planning,
Trust & Probate Law by the OSBA
Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., LPA
158 North Broadway
New Philadelphia, Ohio 44663