One of the best things you could do for your family in terms of protecting them from undue hardships in the event that you fall seriously ill is to ensure that they have the information they need to address your care. Too many people in California and elsewhere do not create an estate plan that includes information regarding what family members should do if the testator becomes incapacitated. In fact, too many individuals do not know that estate plan information can have a role before a person’s passing.
Incapacitation could occur due to a serious illness or injury, and if you become incapacitated, you cannot express your wishes for medical care to doctors and other applicable parties. As a result, someone needs to act on your behalf. However, if you have not provided a HIPAA release form, family members may have to jump through numerous hoops before they can access your protected health information.
Why is it difficult?
It is difficult for family members to access PHI because laws are in place to protect personal information from falling into the wrong hands. As a result, medical professionals are bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to protect information regarding your health and personal details. This means that even your closest loved ones cannot gain access to your health care information unless they have legal authority to do so.
Having this law in place can better ensure that your personal information, like Social Security number, address, telephone number, payment information and more, is not unnecessarily undisclosed. Additionally, it helps ensure that unauthorized parties do not have access to your medical information, including past, present and future care, conditions and payment. Any of this information could be to your detriment if it falls into the wrong hands.
What can you do?
Though your loved ones could take steps to gain legal authority to access your PHI and make medical decisions on your behalf, it can take up precious time and could cause conflict among family members. Instead, you may want to plan for this possibility by creating a HIPAA release form that indicates to whom medical providers can disclose information.
You may also find it helpful to create a medical power of attorney document to appoint an agent to act on your behalf if it comes time to make decisions about your medical care and you are unable to do so. Your estate plan can address numerous possible scenarios, and while it may seem intimidating to start planning, it could be invaluable in the future.