What do you mean I can't find out about my husband's accident injuries? Why can't we move my mother to the nice nursing-home down the street? The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA caused two of my clients to live through these very situations.
A husband and wife were involved in a terrible automobile accident. The husband was seriously injured. His wife wanted to make certain that the needed medical attention was given to her husband. The wife could not get any medical information from her doctor. Even though she was the wife, the new HIPAA law and regulations prevents her from receiving medical information without specific written authorization!
In another case, an elderly widow lady became incapacitated. Her two children wanted to place her in a nursing home so that she would receive adequate care. Even though they had a living will and health-care power of attorney for their mother, they were required to go to court and be appointed her guardians so that they could place their mother in the health care facility.
What is the HIPAA Law all about?
The HIPAA Law in a Nutshell
HIPAA took effect on April 14, 2003.
This legislation applies to virtually every physician, nurse, pharmacist, dentist, and health care provider in the nation. It impacts everyone's access to health care information.
What does this privacy act mean? The regulations stress that health care providers must limit health information to those who are intended to receive it. This means health care information cannot be released to any unauthorized person. This may mean you may not be able to receive medical records for your spouse or parent.
HIPAA Violation Penalties
The penalties for health care providers are staggering. For each disclosure violation, there is a $100 fine. If the violation is knowing, there are criminal penalties of a $50,000 fine and up to one year in prison. If information is provided or obtained under false pretenses, there is $100,000 fine and up to five years in prison. If the wrongful sale, transfer or use of the information was for commercial advantage, there is a $250,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.
How does this affect you? To ensure an easy transition, you must have the appropriate medical release language to comply with HIPAA in three of your estate planning documents.
Documents to Update
The documents which need to be updated are:
- Your Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney
- Your Living Trust
- Your Durable Power of Attorney
What if I do nothing?
You may be forced to sign the doctor's or hospitals forms in a stressful emergency situation. These documents may not reflect your choices and may contain confusing legal and/or medical terminology. Or you may be unable to sign anything and may repeat one of the above scenarios.
If your documents were created before 2003 and have not been amended since, have your attorney review them for HIPAA compliant language. Are you missing some or all of these documents? Make an appointment today!
About the Author: