Each of us has had the experience of being asked by a health care provider to sign a release of medical information under HIPAA (HEALTH INSURANCE PORTABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT). HIPAA was enacted to define the privacy and security requirements for protected health information. It is generally included in Durable Powers of attorney (financial and healthcare) and applies while the patient is alive.
What happens after a person has died? The Personal Representative / Executor usually goes through a court process, (probate) to gain authority to access the information, while a Successor Trustee is commonly given that authority in a lengthy trust document which is difficult to understand.
A stand-alone HIPPA Release identifies people who have access for a predetermined amount of time to medical information; usually 1 to 2 years after death. Below is a situation where a stand-alone HIPAA WAIVER would have been helpful.
As Executor / Trustee of my Step Mother-in-Law’s Estate, I received a hospital billing. Patient accounts informed me that nothing else was pending on her account. Because of HIPAA rules none of my other questions would be answered. If Stepmom had signed a Stand-Alone HIPAA Release. I could provide that one document and have immediate authority to receive information. Though she passed in the same hospital a year ago, the patient accounts department was not notified of her death. Multiple documents needed to be sent and reviewed before I would be granted access to information.
For the benefit of the people who will handle your affairs after you are gone, put a HIPAA Release in place.
Kirkpatrick Legal Services, PLLC
Susan J. Kirkpatrick, J.D.
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