Estate planning is complicated, and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws are challenging, which makes the combination of HIPAA and estate planning as complicated as it is important. Your estate plan is not complete if it does not address an incapacity plan via a trust agreement (or another means), which has HIPAA implications. While this can seem overwhelming, the experienced estate planning attorneys at Ibekwe Law, PLLC take great pride in helping clients like you remain in control of the health care they receive –even when they are unable to speak for themselves. Learn more by giving our legal team a call at 512-505-2753 today.
Failure To Have an Incapacity Plan in Place
The simple truth is that if your estate plan does not include a trust agreement with directives that guide your incapacity and subsequent health care, your loved ones may have to petition the court in order to obtain the authority to make important decisions regarding your health and personal care if necessary.
Without an incapacity plan, your family could be denied access to your medical records in the event of an incapacitating accident, illness, or injury. Further, there is no way to ensure that your wishes regarding this important topic will be upheld unless you memorialize them in your estate plan’s trust agreement. Because HIPAA and estate planning issues that relate to health care and incapacity tend to dovetail, consider visiting with a dedicated estate planning attorney to learn more about your legal rights.
HIPAA’s Role in Estate Planning
HIPAA stands for the very important sounding Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and it plays a very important role in helping to protect patients’ private health information. HIPAA ensures the following:
- Medical providers must establish policies and other safeguards that help to protect data related to their patients’ health.
- Healthcare providers must adhere to strict rules regarding when they can share patient information.
By signing a HIPAA authorization, individual patients are able to authorize the release of their own healthcare information. This official authorization allows healthcare providers the authority they need to release a patient’s personal health data in accordance with the terms and conditions specified therein.
In order for your HIPAA authorization to be valid, it must be written in plain language that makes your intentions clear and must include all the following:
- The name of the provider who is specifically authorized to disclose your private healthcare information
- The name of the person or entity that is specifically authorized to receive your private healthcare information
- A careful description of the specific healthcare information that you authorize to be disclosed
- The specific purpose behind the disclosure in question
- The authorization’s specific time frame and expiration date
- Your name, the date signed, and your signature
HIPAA authorizations are also required to contain certain notices, such as your right to revoke the authorization itself.
HIPAA and Estate Planning: What You Need to Know
When it comes to HIPAA and estate planning, it is critical that the incapacity plan incorporated in your trust agreement be in compliance with all HIPAA regulations. Your trust agreement grants power of attorney regarding your healthcare decisions to someone else in the event that you are incapacitated. While the person whom you trust to carry out this important task does have the legal capacity to move forward with significant healthcare responsibilities on your behalf, your medical provider is not likely to provide him or her with your private healthcare data without an executed HIPAA authorization in place. Ultimately, HIPAA and your trust agreement will work in unison to help protect your healthcare decisions in the event of your incapacitation.
What HIPAA Authorization Can Mean for You and Your Family
Including a valid and clear HIPAA authorization in your trust agreement can help to ensure that all the following are true:
- Your family will have the authority to access your medical records in their efforts to make better-informed healthcare decisions on your behalf (in the event of your incapacitation).
- The healthcare facility, hospital, or healthcare provider involved will be able to freely provide your family with the private and confidential medical records they need without fear of potential liability.
- Your family will be authorized to receive medical updates about your condition and to access your medical bills.
HIPAA and Estate Planning: Frequently Asked Questions
The answers to several of the most frequently asked questions regarding HIPAA and estate planning can help you move forward with increased confidence.
Is There a Difference Between HIPAA Consent and Authorization?
Consent, as it relates to HIPAA, is much more general than authorization. With consent you allow one healthcare provider to disclose or use protected health information for your healthcare treatment. With authorization, you allow the people and/or entities referenced in the document permission to disclose specific protected health information to specified third parties.
How Long Will My HIPAA Authorization Remain Valid?
You control how long your HIPAA authorization will remain valid via the expiration date you incorporate. Further, you can revoke this expiration date in writing (prior to the date).
Can I Revoke My HIPAA Authorization?
Yes, your HIPAA authorization can be completely revoked at any time, but doing so in writing is well advised.