Most parents are used to taking care of their children’s medical needs. They might even assume that they can continue caring for a child once he or she leaves for college. Did you know that this may not always be the case? In fact, parents who fail to secure certain health care estate documents may be in for a terrifying surprise in the event of an emergency.
Once a child reaches age 18, he or she is legally considered an adult. That means all bets are off as far as how parents may have previously dealt with their child’s health needs. Without certain legal documents, parents could be locked out of an adult child’s medical information and be prevented from making important health decisions. With COVID-19 surging and colleges expected to reopen in the fall, the risk of an infection and hospitalization makes health care planning imperative.
Let us take some time to discuss three critical health care estate items to have in place for your college kid:
1. HIPAA Release. Pursuant to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, a person’s medical information must be kept private unless an authorization form grants access to specific individuals. The form, known as a HIPAA release, is essentially a permission slip for disclosing sensitive medical information. If a college student designates his or her parents, they can be kept abreast of important medical developments and communicate with their adult child’s doctors. Limiting conditions can also be implemented to certain information, such as mental health counseling or reproductive health records.
2. Health Care Surrogate. While a HIPAA release can keep parents in the loop about important medical information, it does not provide the authority to make medical decisions on behalf of an adult child. That power would come from a separate document called a health care surrogate. This would allow the parent to make health decisions if the adult child was incapacitated or unable to make competent decisions.
3. Living Will. A living will is a form of an advance medical directive. It is a legal document that specifies the actions that should be taken under specific circumstances such as a terminal of end-stage condition. It specifies, specifically, what medical treatment should or should not be withheld.
A college health emergency may be a nightmare scenario under any circumstance. With COVID-19 surging, however, particularly among young adults, securing these estate documents will help parents and students be prepared. Contact our office for help navigate these challenges.