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Canton Estate Planning & Probate Lawyer > Blog > Estate Planning > Is Your Child College-Bound? Consider Obtaining A Medical HIPAA Release This Year

Is Your Child College-Bound? Consider Obtaining A Medical HIPAA Release This Year


Michael is a college sophomore excited to finally be back on campus this year. He has Type I Diabetes but it is managed with diet and insulin injections. His parents are worried about his health and would feel more comfortable if he checked in on a regular basis, but is a weekly phone call enough? What would happen if Michael ran out of insulin at a football game or during class? Would his parents be notified if he was hospitalized? Will his professors know what to do if he falls unconscious? Who will advocate for him if he is unable to assist in his own medical treatment?

Unfortunately, without a written authorization for the release of medical records, parents of adult college students are unable to access critical health information for their student or advocate for medical treatment in an emergency.  But there are steps parents can take to mitigate these problems in advance. One option is obtaining a medical release for a college-aged student away at school.  Another important document to have is an appointment of a health care representative.

What is a HIPAA Release? 

HIPAA is the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act which protects medical information from being released to unauthorized persons. Passed in 1996, the HIPAA Act contains provisions to protect patient privacy. HIPAA releases are forms that grant the named person access over the patient’s private health information and medical records if the patient consents. Often a new patient will fill out a HIPAA consent release form as standard practice with a physician, naming a spouse or parent as someone who can obtain medical information. If a patient does not specifically grant someone consent, even if that person is next of kin, that person is unable to discuss their loved one’s treatment plan or health status with the patient’s doctors and care team, even in an emergency. Doing so would violate patient privacy. Once a student turns 18, a parent can no longer access their adult student’s health information.  Only a HIPAA release can help parents make informed joint decisions with their college-aged children. Signing a HIPAA release can protect children down the road should they experience a medical emergency and need their parent’s assistance.

Getting the medical records is important, but an adult student probably should also appoint a parent as a health care representative.  With this document, the parent can become the student’s medical advocate if the student cannot speak for themselves.  A HIPPA release will only get the parent medical information.  To be able to speak to a medical professional about their student’s medical care, the parent needs to be appointed as a health care representative. 

Does Your Child Need to Appoint a Health Care Representative Too? 

An appointment of a health care representative designates a person’s choice of who can make medical decisions in a medical emergency if that person is unable to communicate with the health care provider.  Many people assume they will never need a health care representative.  However, accidents and illnesses still happen.  Without a health care representative, an incapacitated patient does not have an advocate to communicate on their behalf with medical staff and doctors.  Without an appointment as a health care representative, a parent cannot advocate for their adult student’s medical care.  Also, in serious medical events, family members often disagree about a loved one’s treatment options causing potentially catastrophic delays in treatment and leaving the medical professionals wondering about the next course of action.

Giving your college student the option to designate a parent as a health care representative ensures you will be notified should they experience a medical event and that you can advocate for your child’s medical needs should they be unable to on their own. 

Contact an Attorney Today for Help 

Planning for the future is exciting and cumbersome at the same time. You’ve done your homework about financial aid, tuition, and making sure your child is acclimated at their new school. Don’t forget to consider the “what-ifs” and talk to your child about their health and safety while away at school. Having your college student to sign a HIPAA release and an appointment of a health care representative can give you both peace of mind knowing you’ll be there in an emergency. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a Canton estate planning attorney at the Law Office of Brian S. Karpe for help today.



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