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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Thursday, March 7, 2019

What is a HIPAA Authorization?

No one likes thinking about becoming incapacitated. The sad fact is, many people do find themselves unable to make their own medical decisions. Without proper incapacity planning, including an up-to-date HIPAA authorization, it can be impossible for your loved ones to get access to your medical records and get you the treatments that you need. As California estate-planning lawyers, we see this scenario far too often.

HIPAA Authorizations Defined

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) Act has been in effect since 1996, and underwent an overhaul and expansion in 2013. HIPAA safeguards your private health information and governs, among other things, how that information is disseminated. A HIPAA authorization empowers your agents to access your medical records. In some cases, despite the fact that you may already have a health care power of attorney in effect, some providers still refuse to release medical information to your designated agent. This can cause serious issues with access to appropriate care.

 

When is HIPAA Authorization Required?

If you become incapacitated, you will be glad you signed a HIPAA authorization form if:

  • the use or disclosure of your personal health information would otherwise be prohibited but the HIPAA privacy rule

  • your condition requires the use or disclosure of psychotherapy notes

  • your condition requires the release of substance abuse treatment records


What is Required in a HIPAA Authorization Form?

If you are going to go through the time and effort to complete a HIPAA authorization form, be sure it meets all of the requirements. In addition to being written in plain English, your HIPAA authorization must contain:

  • the name or class of person(s) authorized to request or use your personal health information

  • the name or class of person(s) to whom your personal health information will be disclosed 

  • specific information regarding the information to be disclosed

  • a description of the purpose of the use or disclosure, or simply the statement “at the request of the individual"

  • a discreet timeframe for use or disclosure (unless for research purposes - simply use this statement “at the end of the study)


Be sure to sign and date the authorization. If someone is signing on your behalf, you must describe the person’s authority to act on your behalf.

 Why all the Hassle?

Aside from the fact that we really don’t want our personal information placed in the wrong hands, healthcare practitioners have become extra-wary in releasing medical records because they could be slapped with million-dollar fines for getting it wrong. That’s why your doctor may be insistent on having a HIPAA authorization form that checks off all of the regulatory requirements before they release your medical records to your family or agents.

Having a HIPAA authorization form in place can make a big difference in the quality of care you receive. For assistance in putting together a complete estate-planning package, talk to the experienced estate-planning attorneys at Horizon Law today.


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