If you are lucky the first time you run into your “child’s” new privacy rights will be at a regular “pre-college” check up.  The physician will glance at the chart, notice that your child is now 18 and inform you that you the parent will need to return to the waiting room unless your son or daughter executes a written HIPAA release naming you as a person with whom information can be shared.  If you are unlucky, that scenario will play out in an emergency room somewhere.

While there is absolutely nothing an attorney can do to make an emergency room visit better, they can make it a tiny bit easier.

At 18 your child still needs you to be their back up eyes and ears and maybe even their advocate, if they are in a position where they can’t make their own choices.   Three documents, prepared by an attorney for them, can make emergency situations a little easier by cutting through some of the red tape.  Just like any other adult, they need Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, a General Durable Power of Attorney and a HIPAA Release.

Durable powers of attorney can be effective immediately upon signing or take effect when the subject or grantor becomes incapacitated.  The agent appointed in these documents is granted authority to act on behalf of the incapacitated person.  This might be making medical decisions, paying bills, or dealing with insurance companies.  Without these documents, a parent would need to obtain a court order naming them as the guardian and conservator of their child in order to perform these functions.  Going to court is a terrible waste of time and energy when your child is facing a medical emergency.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) is the release we all sign at least once a year at every health care institution we visit.  Your estate planning attorney can draft a release in which your child authorizes you to receive any of his or her healthcare information. It isn’t tied to a specific provider or institution and it doesn’t expire.  This document permits the provider to share potentially critical information in a timely manner.

These documents can of course be changed as needed.  You teen can rest assured that naming mom and dad as their agent doesn’t mean they are giving up their right to privacy for all time.  It does show the mutual trust between parents and their child.  It also lets them know that while they may be in the driver’s seat, you always have their back.