HIPAA Release: Changes to This Important Part of an Estate Plan

Posted on May 27, 2013

In April, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held hearings with regard to the release of information to parents under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). The HIPAA Privacy Rule was created to provide “national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information.” Entities that are covered under HIPAA had to comply with its provisions beginning in 2003.

According to the Act, the purpose of HIPAA is to:

  • Adddress “the use and disclosure of individuals’ health information.”
  • To “understand and control how their health information is used.”
  • To “define and limit the circumstances in which an individual’s protected health information may be used or disclosed by covered entities.”

Individuals can execute a HIPAA release form to allow their loved ones access to their medical records. A HIPAA release, however, is just one piece of the estate-planning puzzle, as it relates to your health care needs and access to your medical records. Other pieces to the puzzle may include a will, durable power of attorney, and revocable trust.

Parents dispute the restrictions because it makes it difficult for them to know what is going on with their child’s life. Unless the child had an executed medical directive, will, or trust that contained a HIPAA release, it is a challenge for parents to access these records. Gregg Wolfe testified before the House subcommittee about his tragic story. His son, Justin, died in December 2012 after overdosing from heroin. He was just 21 years old. At least two of Wolfe’s doctors were aware of his heroin use. Sadly, his parents were not, and they were not entitled to know since they did not have clear access to his medical records. He and others are now fighting for more clearly defined language so that in the future, parents would know about situations like the one effecting Justin Wolfe.

The Law Office of James F. Roberts & Associates, APC would like to express its deepest condolences to the family of Justin Wolfe. Contact experienced Orange County estate planning attorneys for more information and guidance. Call our office today at (714) 459-5481.

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James F. Roberts
Founder and owner of the Law Office of James F. Roberts and Associates, a premiere estate planning law firm