It’s graduation season! That means it’s time to double check that each adult
child you have graduating from high school or college has a HIPAA waiver and
Health Care Power of Attorney set up, possibly even a general Durable Power of Attorney,
as well. Once your child turns 18, they are considered an adult under the eyes
of law – even if we know that they really aren’t an “adult” adult yet.
There are a couple of big problems with a child turning 18 and being
considered a legal adult. First, their health care information is private, even
from Mom & Dad! Want to make sure they were vaccinated properly thanks to
the measles outbreak? That information is no longer yours to access. Want to
call the doctor and re-order a prescription? You no longer have authority. HIPAA
keeps your child’s health records private, even from you.
Second, you have no authority to learn about your child’s health and make
decisions for your them. What if something happens while your child is away at
college, on vacation, or commuting to their first big-boy job? No one is
required to call you. No one is required to consult with you. You cannot hire
or fire doctors, move hospitals, approve a course of treatment or medicine. In
the eyes of the law, you are now treated like a stranger when it comes to your
child’s health. A Health Care Power of Attorney will allow you to regain those
rights you lost when they turned 18 (with your child’s consent, of course).
Finally, you might also consider a Durable Power of Attorney if your
child is going to need a lot of help when they are away. This will give you the
ability to do those “adult” things your child might not be ready for yet –
depositing checks sent to your home address when they are away, filing their taxes,
talking to an insurance agent on their behalf, etc.
Graduation is an exciting time in the life of your child. They are moving on
to the next step in their lives, and all the excitement and danger it brings
with it. Who knows what kind of trouble your child is going to get into as a
college student or young adult? Whether they are going to college a thousand
miles away or getting their first job down the street, it is best to be
prepared and give yourself peace of mind by getting these documents in place.