Many of us are caring for aging parents, adult children, or disabled family members, which means being involved in their medical care. During this time, you may need to act as a second set of ears to understand what is going on and the doctor’s’ plans moving forward. This can be difficult on its own, but it can feel nearly impossible when doctors won’t cooperate because you don’t have legal authority to participate in medical decisions. To prevent this from happening you need to be informed and prepared when going to the doctor.
Be Informed: What You Need to Know
Doctors are bound by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which is a Federal law that protects individuals’ medical records. When you first meet with a doctor, they probably do not know how close you are to your loved one. As a result, they protect themselves and your loved one’s privacy by not speaking with you unless you can prove you have permission legally.
Be Prepared: What You Need to Bring
To overcome HIPAA, you need a HIPAA waiver, where an individual releases the doctor from liability and allows the doctor to share medical information with those named on the release. This release does not allow you to make decisions for your loved one– only a Health Care Proxy grants those privileges. If you are going to be helping your loved one with medical decisions, that’s when you will also need a Health Care Proxy.
When going to the doctor, especially the first time meeting a new doctor, it is best to arrive overprepared. You should provide the medical team with a copy of the HIPAA release AND the health care proxy. Even if you have already provided the team with the paperwork, it never hurts to bring an extra copy. It can be helpful to have a health care binder that includes all the important stuff, ranging from the HIPAA release to a copy of their insurance card. This way, you are always ready.
Know What the Paperwork Says
You need to know what the Health Care Proxy paperwork says and what it means. Doctors are not in the business of reading legal documents, so you are your loved one’s (and your own) advocate. Take the time to understand what you can and cannot do as the health care proxy, as detailed in the paperwork. Additionally, some Health Care Proxies need to be invoked when the patient is deemed incapacitated. If this is the case, you may need a doctor to sign off before your privileges kick in.
What If I’m the One Needing Help?
As if you were stepping in to help a loved one, you should be informed and prepared about your own situation. You can take steps to prepare before you need help by having a HIPAA release and health care proxy that does not activate until you’re incapacitated. By doing this, you can ensure your designated proxy knows the ropes ahead of time in case they ever have to act on your behalf.
For help preparing for speaking with a doctor on behalf of a loved one, or planning for yourself, contact Ladimer Law to speak with an estate attorney today.
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