As we’ve written about before, a living will, also largely referred to in estate planning terms as advanced healthcare directives, allows you to name the person(s) who can make medical decisions should you become incapacitated and can no longer do so for yourself. Think of them as a list of instructions related to life-sustaining or emergency medical tests, long-term care, medications, and even CPR preferences your family and medical personnel need to know. A living will provides incredible peace of mind for your family in those moments, provided that you also include HIPPA releases.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is designed to restrict access to a person’s confidential medical history and health records. All healthcare professionals are bound to HIPAA regulations, often making it the one hiccup that can slip through the cracks and upend your chosen agent’s ability to access your medical data to make an informed decision.
In today’s article, we will attempt to explain more about HIPAA releases and how they can impact estate planning.
What Are the Benefits of HIPAA?
Without getting too deep into the weeds, HIPAA privacy rules can best be defined as a national standard that protects medical records and other personal health information. This includes limiting the use and disclosure of that information without the patient’s permission. So while you may have no issues with your spouse, parents, siblings, or someone else you trust having access to all your medical data — especially if you’re in a medically-induced coma or are unable to speak for yourself — the doctors in charge of your care might not be aware of that if you haven’t completed a comprehensive HIPAA release form. In their mind, they have someone wanting to make decisions for you but no proof of such authority.
The bottom line is that your medical team wants to protect your privacy, and there are several benefits to HIPAA, including:
- Control over your health information
- Boundaries over the use and release of health records
- Fosters patient-healthcare provider trust
- Healthcare providers must adhere to appropriate privacy safeguards
- Reduced medical errors in your file
How HIPAA releases avoid privacy restrictions.
HIPAA releases relieve the hospital and attending physicians of liability when sharing medical information with someone else. Remember that you can become incapacitated in a variety of ways, whether through an accident or an illness such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. While your living will sets forth your choices in these and other scenarios where you cannot speak for yourself and also gives someone you trust the power to speak on your behalf, the catch is that HIPAA privacy rules can still prevent doctors from allowing that person to access your information or discussing that information with them.
Living wills, healthcare power of attorneys, and HIPAA releases must meet certain legal requirements to be considered valid. But once they satisfy those parameters, they work in unison to ensure no restrictions.
Benefits of HIPAA releases include:
- Full access to medical information, including bills
- Doctors can have open discussions with your approved agent about treatment options
- Provides you with the ability to decide which information is accessible
- Faster care, eliminating the threat of your family and doctors playing guessing games
Estate planning is much more than planning for the day you are no longer around to protect and provide for your family. It also accounts for situations when you cannot make decisions for yourself and require a family member or trusted friend to ensure your needs and wishes continue to be honored. Living wills and HIPAA releases ensure that you have the right people in your corner and that everyone is on the same page in terms of your immediate and future healthcare needs.
Please call Christman Attorneys for your legal needs today!
True estate planning covers all your bases. Our attorneys will help you to create legal instruments to distribute your assets according to your wishes, nominate a guardian for minor children, minimize family disputes, avoid probate and estate administration, and plan for incapacity. This includes HIPAA releases. Where you fall in that conversation may not be clearly defined until we can sit down, dive into your unique situation, and determine the best course for everyone involved.
Please consult an attorney for advice about your individual situation. The material on this website and in this or any blog article we publish are for informational purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice. The attorneys at Christman Ramsey & Foster, PC believe in tailoring legal advice and solutions to your own personal circumstances.
We have an unwavering commitment to helping our clients at each stage of their legal situation.