A few months ago, my friend’s daughter, a freshman in college, had a health scare. Fortunately, everything turned out okay! But my friend hadn’t had her daughter fill out any of the necessary forms to allow the doctor and hospital to release information to her or even to speak to her about her daughter’s medical concerns. Trying to get a busy (and uninterested) college student to fill out the necessary forms while in another state in the middle of a semester was not quick, easy, or painless.
There are privacy laws (HIPAA) that restrict what a health care provider can share about any adult 18 years or older. Yes, this applies even if your adult child is still on your health insurance plan and even if you are paying the bills. Please refer to this article with advice about what forms you should have your 18+ year-olds sign. You can complete these forms on your own or meet with an estate planning attorney.
Briefly, the four important documents are:
If your adult child is attending college in another state, it may be safest to fill out forms for each state. Some colleges have their own forms as well (e.g., the University of Illinois has this authorization to release confidential health information form); this is something worth asking about at parent orientation.
Note that it is never - regardless of the person’s age - enough to just write the name of the person who you want to be your health care power of attorney. It’s critical to first ask them if they are willing to take on this role, if needed, and then have an in-depth conversation about your wishes.
Once you’ve filled out the forms, keep them in a secure place. Also, be sure to scan them so you can easily access them from your phone as well as from your child’s phone.
Bottom Line: while you’re checking towels, sheets, comforter, etc off of your college packing/to do list this summer, please add “fill out important forms!"
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