In the unfortunate case of accident or illness involving a child at college, parents naturally want to be of immediate help. But they could run into obstacles if they do not have some important documents.

Health-care proxy

Health-care proxies and powers of attorney are not limited to caring for seniors. Students going to college should complete these documents so their parents can get information about their medical condition, access records, and be able to help make decisions for them if they are incapacitated. If the student is under the age of 18, the health provider can release medical records. But once a child reaches the age of 18, he or she is entitled to medical record and financial privacy. Doctors cannot share information without permission because of regulations under the federal HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

With a health-care proxy, a child can designate a parent as an agent or proxy. If the child is unable to make decisions, the proxy may get information about his or her child’s condition, discuss options, express the child’s wishes, and make treatment decisions. A living will is often paired with the health-care proxy, and signed at the same time, to help guide the proxy. This document allows the student to discuss his or her wishes about the use of various types of medical treatments to extend life.

HIPAA medical release

When patients visit a doctor or hospital, they are often asked to sign a HIPAA form which authorizes the sharing of medical information with a designated person. Typically these forms are signed at the treating facility. However, documents prepared in advance should include language that will allow the designated agent to receive medical information in compliance with HIPAA regulations.

Durable power of attorney

The durable power of attorney authorizes an agent (the parent) to manage finances and sign legal documents on behalf of the patient if he or she is deemed incapacitated. The power of attorney will make it possible for parents to sign documents on behalf of their child, access bank accounts, and manage their accounts.

Your child may have opted to stay on the family health insurance plan rather than enroll in school-sponsored coverage. But enrollment in the family’s insurance plan does not preclude the child’s right to privacy. Without a health-care proxy, parents are not entitled to medical information about an adult child.

The opportune time to prepare these documents is prior to your child’s leaving for college. You may want to seek assistance from a family financial advisor to gather and review the documents.


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