Hip on HIPAAHip on HIPAA? It sounds like a bit of a joke, but these days, HIPAA authorizations seem to be everywhere. For years, you’ve probably signed HIPAA forms at your doctor’s office. I’ve watched many a parent at the pediatrician’s office mindlessly sign the form as they distractedly watch their toddler try to punch a hole in the fish tank. When you walk in the door, you are often given a clipboard (or tablet) that has a stack of forms for you to review and sign.

Being a lawyer, I try to get to the office a little early for each appointment to make sure I have time to look at all the paperwork. Maybe I’m the only one? But I’ve seen plenty of doctor forms that were clearly taken from someone else and just copied on letterhead. With the COVID-19 pandemic, now is as good a time as any to get hip on HIPAA.

What is HIPAA?

When I first started practicing law, I remember chuckling when I saw other attorneys refer to it as “HIPPA” since that is what it sounds like when you say it aloud. For those who are wondering, HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It was enacted in 1996 and you most often run across its provisions that deal with keeping your medical records private. If you’re looking for a quick list of what it does, the Department of Health and Human Services has a good FAQ page here. They also have a good guide of when your information can be shared.

Why Do I Need to Know About It?

So, why should you be hip on HIPAA these days? Primarily because we all want to know as much information as we can about the Coronavirus and individuals who have contracted it. In the middle of all of this are the doctors who are treating patients. They are forced to balance the need for public information with the privacy of their patients.

HIPAA and Your Estate Plan

When I first discuss a HIPAA Authorization with my clients, they are often confused. They are used to them at their doctor’s office. But why would their lawyer be discussing one?

With my clients, I add a HIPAA Authorization to their estate plan. It works with their Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will. While the other two documents are no longer effective when you are deceased, you can have a HIPAA Authorization that survives you. This will allow your family members and loved ones to have access to your medical records after you are deceased. Last year, many clients could not wrap their heads around why they would need a HIPAA Authorization to survive them…

But now, many clients understand that if they were to die of coronavirus (or even suspected coronavirus), they would want their loved ones to have access to the records. There could be very important information about their illness. It could be vital to help their loved ones after they are gone. Using a HIPAA Authorization, that process can be made simple for your loved ones.

Dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic is bringing all kinds of new information to our daily lives. A new focus on the importance of your will and healthcare documents is hopefully a positive benefit for all of us.

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Next Steps

If you’ve been considering a will, living wills or health care power of attorney and now realize you really need a full estate plan, or this is the first you are hearing of it and would like more information, call my office to set up a Legal Strategy Session and we can discuss if it is the best option for your situation – (877) AMAYERS.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.
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