The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 was enacted to help ensure the privacy of your medical records. HIPAA limits “covered entities” (i.e., health care providers or insurance companies) from revealing your protected health information. If they violate this privacy rule, whether intentionally or not, the penalties can be significant, including jail time. Therefore, health care providers are huge sticklers for protecting a patient’s privacy. To help the Patient Advocates named in your medical power of attorney be able to speak freely with your doctors, your medical power of attorney document will include language authorizing your health care providers to share protected medical information with your Patient Advocate.
In addition to a medical power of attorney, a separate HIPAA authorization form is necessary. Why? Well, even if a properly drafted medical power of attorney includes language authorizing your doctors to share protected medical information with your Patient Advocate, they can only do so when you are certified incapacitated or incompetent. But you may want someone to be able to talk more freely with your doctors or access your records before you get to that point, such as when you’re recovering from surgery or quite ill but not incompetent. Even if you are incompetent, insurance companies may still be uneasy talking to your Patient Advocate without a separate HIPAA authorization form signed by you. So, to make sure your health care providers or insurance companies can talk freely with your Patient Advocate and family members, a separate HIPAA authorization form is always included as part of your estate plan.
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