Monday, March 26, 2012

HIPAA and Estate Planning

HIPAA, short for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.  Many people have a vague sense of what this law does, some even think it is called hippo.  In the context of estate planning, it is an important law to be aware of.

First, HIPAA is a federal law.  That means that it controls over state law.  It is under state law that powers of attorney are created.  If your power of attorney for health care does not waive HIPAA or you do not have a HIPAA waiver, your agent may hit a road block when trying to access your health care information.  That seems bizarre, but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

In my experience, hospitals and medical offices do not follow HIPAA to the letter of the law.  But pharmacies, long-term care facilities, and health insurance companies do.  Maybe it has something to do with the profit motive.  Regardless, you do not want to count on organizations ignoring the law.

HIPAA -- do you know if your documents waive this federal protection?  Please remember that a blog is not legal advice.  You should consult an attorney for the latest information, specific to your state and situation.

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