Peter Johnson wrote a piece for the Concord Journal in 2014 regarding HIPAA authorization for college students. We are reposting the article on our blog for all of those who may have missed or need a refresher on the topic.
Did you know that if a child is over 18 and is injured or becomes ill at college, the college’s health care office is not necessarily able to communicate with the child’s parents regarding the child’s condition? If they disclose confidential medical information without the child’s consent, they could be subjected to penalties under a federal law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Even if the child has signed an authorization form addressed to college health officials, this document will not necessarily apply to off-campus healthcare providers. A parent might not even be told if the child is in the health care system.
Fortunately, there is a solution for this absurd situation. A child over 18 can sign a general release called a “HIPAA Authorization” which names a “personal representative” (usually a parent) to whom all doctors, hospitals and other healthcare professionals can communicate the child’s medical information. A child over 18 can also sign a “Health Care Proxy” which authorizes a designated person to make medical decisions for the child (if the child cannot communicate) – again this document would usually name a parent. The child can carry a wallet card telling health care officials how to obtain copies of these documents.
Every child away at college should have both a HIPAA Authorization and Health Care Proxy in place.