HIPAA is the acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was passed by Congress in 1996. The HIPAA regulations allow individuals to authorize the release of their medical information to third parties. Technically, HIPAA applies only to health information transacted electronically; however, “electronics” include fax machines and telephones, so not many providers are exempt from its terms. The HIPAA privacy regulations apply to virtually every physician, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, and health care provider in the United States.
Health care providers are very concerned that they might violate HIPAA and incur severe penalties, and have become very cautious about releasing an individual’s health information to a third party. There must be specific language which authorizes the health provider to disclose health information.
Under the regulations, an authorization for the release or disclosure of an individual’s protected medical information must meet the following requirements:
- be a written document, signed and dated by the individual;
- identify the protected health information to be used or disclosed;
- identify the persons to whom the information may be disclosed;
- contain an expiration date;
- identify the individual’s right to revoke the authorization; and
- acknowledge that the information may be redisclosed by the recipient.
The new rules mean that unless an individual has a valid HIPAA disclosure document, health care providers are not going to be talking about the medical condition of a patient to the families of the patient or the lawyer for the patient. These restrictions on disclosing information can become roadblocks for family members needing to prove incapacity so they can step in and make the health decisions for their incapacitated loved one.
The HIPAA authorization must refer to specific terminology of the Act to be valid. If the authorization doesn’t meet the regulation requirements, your loved ones will need to prove incapacity through a court proceeding called a Guardianship and Conservatorship.
If you currently have a HIPAA authorization, please have one of our experienced estate planning attorneys review it for statutory compliance; and if you don’t have a HIPAA authorization, let us help you give your family members the legal right to access your medical information if you become incapacitated and are unable to give informed consent.
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation by calling 888.222.1328.
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This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.
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Morris, Hall & Kinghorn says
We agree Judy! Many of the medical facilities decide to be overly cautious to avoid any possibility of a fine or legal ramification. While we understand their concern, we have seen many cases where our clients have been prevented from getting vital information due to the HIPAA restrictions. This is why we are so adamant about the need for HIPAA, Living Will and Power of Attorney documents. That was good of you to try and correct their payment, and too bad for them they didn’t listen appropriately.