You thought you purchased just about everything for your child for college, but don’t forget one more important item: a health care power of attorney or health proxy.
When a child turns 18, parents don’t have much authority under federal law to remotely access medical records or make decision. With the medical privacy law HIPAA, you need to have your child’s written permission.
CBS News’ recent article, “Don't send your child to college without this,” suggests a health care proxy. It’s a pretty simple legal document that gives you the authority to make medical decisions and access their records if they’re disabled. Talk about a critical back-to-school item!
A health care power of attorney is critically important when a child has a health emergency at college.
A HIPAA authorization allows you access to your child’s medical records, which are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Your child is an adult, so you can’t call the health center at college and get his or her detailed health information without an authorization.
The health care proxy is more complicated. The one signing it is giving another the authority to make medical decisions for them if they become incapacitated. An agent for health decisions is appointed with the proxy. The proxy covers a broad range of powers, and parents or other trusted individuals who are agents are allowed to speak with doctors, approve tests and examine medical records.
Prior to getting these forms, you should have a serious conversation with your college student on why the documents are important. The proxy talks about some unpleasant decision making—like specifying what treatment or care a person on life support wants and stipulating organ donation and other post-mortem issues. Some of the more detailed proxies have a questionnaire that runs through end-of-life or advanced “health care directive” decisions. As a parent, this is tough language to read, and these are difficult issues to discuss. Nonetheless, they provoke some serious thinking about quality of life in the event of a health emergency.
It’s important to know what the documents can and can’t do: they don’t ensure quality care, and you’ll still need to consult with doctors. Be sure you fully comprehend what these documents mean and how you can modify them.
Speak with your estate planning lawyer and appoint trusted family members or friends to make decisions if you or your spouse/partner can’t. You should also, at the same time, review your own estate plan. If you don’t have a will, powers of attorney or living trust, find out which documents are appropriate for your situation.
Reference: CBS News (September 9, 2016) “Don't send your child to college without this”