Estate plan packages are something we advise all of our clients to think about, and it often starts with a discussion of a will, power of attorney, and if the person needs a trust. However, there’s one element that should never be overlooked: HIPAA authorization forms.
As part of your retirement planning, you must think about the future and what will happen to you if there’s a medical emergency in your life.
What is a HIPAA Form and What Does It Stand For?
When you’re in a doctor’s or dentist’s office, it’s not uncommon to come across a HIPAA form. You’ll need to sign one of these forms, and it’s not always 100% clear as to what you’re signing.
HIPAA is short for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and it transformed healthcare. A few things to know are:
- The HIPAA law protects your information so that all medical issues are kept between you and the doctor
- A HIPAA form allows for the release of the information to certain parties, such as a spouse or children
Many people assume that if they’re in the hospital, the hospital will have to call and inform somebody. Unfortunately, this is not accurate and that is why we recommend filling out a HIPAA authorization form.
What is a HIPAA Authorization?
There are two different types of HIPAA authorization forms. The first is when you’re switching health insurance providers and need to release your medical information from one provider to the next.
However, we’re going to be discussing the second type of authorization.
The second type of authorization prevents your doctor from divulging information about your medical condition to someone else. You may incorrectly assume that if you’re in the hospital, you can talk to your doctor and your doctor will be able to release your medical information to specific loved ones.
You can connect your Estate Plan and your HIPAA forms. If you cannot communicate and someone needs to carry out your wishes as outlined in your estate plan, they’ll likely need medical information from your doctor. Asking someone to carry out your wishes will place a huge burden on them, and you don’t want them to be unable to obtain information on your current medical condition and prognosis.
Connecting your HIPAA forms to an estate plan can resolve this problem.
Example of Why HIPAA Forms Are Important
In the last year, we’ve had a few “reminders” of why filling out these forms is crucial in 2023. We had one couple who was fine one day and then the next, the husband had a massive stroke. He could not communicate or make any facial movements.
The doctors stated that the person had the mental capacity to communicate their wishes, but they were unable to physically communicate.
The wife was left with the burden of communicating with the doctors about what she thought her husband’s wishes were. She had to guess what her husband’s wishes were because he didn’t have any of the appropriate documents in place that stated his desires.
A healthcare power of attorney allows you to list one or more people to make medical decisions. The person in our example has adult children, and the wife was extremely stressed out in this situation.
A power of attorney, living will and HIPAA form that are all connected would have allowed the husband’s information to be shared with the wife and children. Her children could have taken on some of the burden of making decisions if all of these documents were connected.
I have another example of my own. I was talking to an estate planning attorney and had a son who was turning 18 at the time. My attorney reminded me that once my son reached adulthood, I would only receive limited information from doctors.
If my son had been in a medical emergency, the hospital would not have been able to share certain medical information with me.
My attorney advised me to have my son sign a HIPAA form that authorizes my wife and I to speak with doctors and have them release information to us on his medical condition. We also have a daughter who will be turning 18 shortly and will need her to sign a HIPAA form as well.
Imagine being a parent and not having the ability to speak to the doctors about your child’s medical condition. It’s a scary prospect that also applies to your parents, spouse or anyone who would want you to know about their medical condition.
What Information is Shared When a HIPAA Authorization Form is Signed?
HIPAA forms authorize medical professionals to give your medical information to those listed on the form. The person listed on the form also has a right to request any information from the medical professional.
Is every piece of information shared?
Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other sensitive information are protected. Medical professionals must also act within the HIPAA standard of minimum necessary. These professionals only need to provide you with the bare minimum of information.
Medical professionals do not need to go through all of your medical history. Instead, they need to provide you with enough information to make a decision on the person’s health.
On the HIPAA authorization, there is no need for a notary or witness. You only need to have the person’s signature and the name of the people they are authorizing information to be released to in the event they’re in the hospital.
The form requires:
- How you want the form to be used
- Names of who you want to access your information
- Form timeframe (length of authorization)
- Ability to revoke authorization
On the HIPAA form, you just state your medical wishes and who will receive information on your behalf. These forms authorize the individual to receive just the minimum info necessary to make a medical decision if you are unable to make it yourself.
If you name someone who you decide you no longer want on the form, you can revoke the authorization, too.
We truly believe everyone needs a HIPPA form.
Anyone who wants to sign HIPAA forms can contact us and we’ll walk you through the process. We do not charge for this. You can also consult with your estate planning attorney to have them fill out these forms with you.