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Monday, October 20, 2014

HIPAA and Your 18-Year Old Child

"Terri, I am absolutely shocked!  I took my newly turned 18-year old high school senior for some medical tests this past week. The Patient Representative spoke to my son; she did not address me.  I then remembered, this is what you were talking about!"

I got this phone call from a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago.  Her son has some medical issues and during a recent hospital visit for tests, discovered things had changed; simply because her son turned 18.  The medical representatives no longer asked her questions about his medicines and history, they asked her son directly.  Her son, being as shocked as she was, was not prepared to take over his own medical decisions.

I had just talked about this topic during a Chamber event in our community weeks before and my friend was in attendance.  I had also written about this topic in a blog article about Spring break earlier this year.  The truth is, many parents are  shocked to discover that they no longer have access to their kid's medical information when their child turns 18.  Way too often, parents don't learn this until there is an urgent medical emergency while the adult child is away at College, Spring Break or in an automobile accident.   It doesn't matter that you're still paying for their medical bills or that they still live at home.

In my friend's case, there wasn't an emergency. She was accompanying her son for some medical tests, which is often the case in her situation.  But this time the difference was, her son is 18.

How can you be prepared?


This realization motivated my friend to action. Her son's medical condition is one he will have his whole life.  She and her husband know this and are prepared to help him as long as it takes, but they were unprepared for the privacy issues that come into existence the day their children turn 18.  After-all, it's not like we get a notice in the mail as parents alerting us to this fact.   She immediately contacted an attorney, and executed the healthcare power of attorney. 

She also took it a step further. In the event he is ever in a medical emergency away from home or if the copy they have gets lost or is unavailable, she put a digital copy of that signed power of attorney in the public folder of her son's emergency data folder of SafelyFiled.  In that way, if he is away from home and can't tell emergency responders anything, they will find his Emergency Data Card in his wallet and have access to important medical information as well as that power of attorney; immediately.  They then know they can share any medical information with his parents without risk of breaking HIPAA privacy laws.

There are many things that happen the day your child turns 18 that might catch you off guard.  The HIPAA privacy issue is one, a major one.  There are a few others that a blogger from About Parenting captured in this article you might find helpful. 


Be Aware of How Your Role Changes

It doesn't matter how old your child gets, they will always be your baby.  But from a legal perspective, you are no longer automatically granted the information you may need to help them in legal or medical matters when they turn 18.  Keep that in mind and be prepared for how your role as a parent will change simply because of a certain birthday in your child's life.

"The day your child turns 18 you no longer have access to their medical info"

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