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HIPAA Lawyer in Arizona

Authorizing Loved Ones to Receive Critical Information in Times of Emergency

Laws enacted to protect our privacy provide many benefits, but they can also cause some problems. HIPAA—the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act—is a prime example.

HIPAA puts strict limits on medical professionals and insurance companies when it comes to sharing details about a patient with others, even family members. Without an executed HIPAA release designating who can receive the information, HIPAA will prevent a loved one who wants to help clear up confusion about medical instructions, assist with medications, or resolve a problem with insurance. The restrictions pose serious difficulties in an emergency situation because they prevent doctors and medical facilities from sharing any information about a patient’s condition without authorization. If you were rushed to the hospital after a car accident, for instance, the hospital might not be allowed to confirm that you are there, let alone tell anyone what has happened or what condition you are in.

That’s why PayneLess Law™ prepares HIPAA release documents as part of our comprehensive estate plans. We create the authorization documents that enable medical professionals to share information with those that you want to be informed.

Understanding HIPAA

HIPAA requires doctors and other health care professionals to keep information that is considered “protected health information” strictly confidential. Companies and individual providers can face serious fines if they fail to comply, so many medical offices and hospitals have policies that err on the side of caution. They refuse to provide information without express authorization, even to family members or partners.

You can provide that authorization if you are conscious, and you maintain legal capacity. But if an accident or illness left you unconscious, or a condition leaves you incapable of granting legal consent, then you cannot authorize medical providers to communicate with loved ones. Your loved ones might have to petition a court to be appointed as your guardian to receive your medical information and assist with your care. A court appointed Guardian is a slow, expensive, and time-consuming process.

Having a HIPAA release authorization prepared in advance provides your express authorization. PayneLess Law creates documents built to comply with the requirements of both state and federal laws and to satisfy medical providers and insurance companies.

What Happens If You Don’t Have a HIPAA Authorization Document

While it may be natural to assume that doctors are able to communicate with close family members about someone’s medical health, HIPAA prevents this without authorization. Doctors and hospitals may not even be able to communicate protected information to your spouse or partner.

People also assume that the release forms they sign routinely at the doctors’ office enable health care providers to share their information with family. However, these forms are very limited in scope, and may only authorize the sharing of information with other professionals associated with your care. Or if the form allows sharing of information with others, the form has no effect if you’re transferred to a different facility or receive care from a different provider.

If an older adult gets confused about their medication schedule or a college student needs help with an issue covered by their parents’ insurance, authorization is needed before anyone can help.   

HIPAA Authorization Coordinates with Other Estate Planning Documents

To protect your health care needs in emergency situations, it is helpful to have not only a HIPAA authorization, but also other medical planning documents such as a health care power of attorney, mental health power of attorney, and a living will. The powers of attorney enable you to authorize someone to make decisions about treatment on your behalf and how to pay for it, if you are unable to make or communicate your own decisions. With a HIPAA authorization, the person you have designated as your Healthcare agent or financial agent to ask doctors questions about your condition to make informed choices based on the most complete information.

What to Do With Your HIPAA Authorization

Once you have an authorization form that is set up to cover a variety of situations, it is important to make sure that the right people have a copy or know where to find a copy in case they need it. People to inform about your HIPAA authorization include:

  • Your primary care physician
  • Other physicians you see regularly
  • The hospital, if you are going in for tests or treatment
  • The person designated to make decisions with a power of attorney

It is also helpful to ensure that anyone authorized in other estate planning documents, such as your trustee, knows where to locate a copy of the authorization so it can be shared in an emergency.

PayneLess Law Keeps You Fully Protected

At PayneLess Law, we see estate planning as a series of strategies to protect you during your life as well as to safeguard your assets for loved ones after you die. The HIPAA authorization form is an essential part of that protection plan.

To learn more about adding this crucial document to your estate plan, we invite you to schedule a PayneFree™ consultation at your convenience by calling 480-420-7199 or contacting us online. 

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Monday to Friday 9 am to 6 pm