Health Emergencies and Your College-Aged Child
One of the core messages that I am constantly trying to promote here on Rich Women Rock is the idea that planning ahead means that you will enjoy more choices in life.
Often I am referring to planning ahead in terms of finances, but this theme is consistent throughout life’s travels. As many of you know, my son Kurt is starting his junior year this fall at University of Texas and my younger son, Erik, starts college as a freshman at California State University Northridge. As my husband and I become empty nesters, I am glad to say both that we have survived much of the learning curve, and that we are lucky to have avoided too many unforeseen emergencies. We’re prepared for them, though.
One of any parent’s greatest fears is a health emergency. Scary in and of itself, but downright terrifying when, in the throes of the emergency, a parent suddenly learns that he or she has no right to access medical information for their 18 year old-or-older child. Children in the last years of their teens are viewed as adults by the law, and as a parent, you will be blocked from information about your child’s condition and unable to weigh in on treatment options.
During freshman orientation two years ago, I attended a breakout session on University Health Care at UT Austin, and saw a room full of parents’ jaws drop when the presenter explained that they would not receive a phone call from the school if there was an emergency, nor would they receive access to their kid’s medical information. (Of course, irony being what it is, the medical bill will be made available to parents without any delay.)
So, what is an involved, engaged parent to do? Think ahead. These two forms, HIPAA authorization and Medical Power of Attorney, will give you access to your child’s medical information and treatment in an emergency.
HIPAA Authorization (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)
By asking your child to sign a HIPAA authorization, and specify you as someone with whom medical information can be shared, you will be granted access to your child’s medical information. It does not need to be notarized and, your child can specify what kind of access they would like you to have. Keeping a scanned HIPPA form in your smart phone will grant you immediate access to your child’s health information at a moment’s notice.
This is an important form, but it should be noted, that it alone will not allow you to give direction to medical professionals on your child’s behalf. For that, you will need to have a signed Medical Power of Attorney.
Medical Power of Attorney
When your child signs over a POA to you, he or she is making you their agent in the event that they are unable to make decisions for themselves. There are many terms for this document depending on what state you and your child are in. Other names for the same document include healthcare power of attorney, designation of healthcare proxy, or durable power of attorney for health care. In any case, these forms vary from State to State and can usually be downloaded from the State’s government website and will need to be witnessed and notarized.
If your child is attending school out of State, I would recommend having a Medical Power of Attorney forms filled out in both your home State and your school’s State – just to cover all bases.
Please note, a POA is not a Living Will – that is a document (Which can also be found on your State’s government site,) that specifies your child’s wishes in terms of an intervention during a life or death scenario. It too, must be witnessed and notarized in order to be legally binding. Ultimately, you may want to consult with your estate planning attorney.
This information is general in nature, and not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.