This fall, many young adults will either head off to college or break out on their own. In addition to the typical list of items they may take to college, they should be prepared with the proper legal documents. What’s that? You weren’t aware that your now adult children need legal documents? Well, they absolutely do because in the eyes of the law (if not their parents), 18-year-olds are adults.
Legally speaking, parents’ legal authority ends when their children turn 18. While your child will likely still relies on you to help pay some bills, you do not have an automatic legal right to access their medical records and assist with making healthcare decisions without authorization by your child to the healthcare provider. The first illness away from home, your child goes to the campus doctor. When you find out they are sick, you call to understand the diagnosis and get more medical information on treatment. However, unlike before when you were driving him or her to the doctor’s office down the street, the doctor now tells you, “I’m sorry, I can’t give you that information, but I’m happy to take your payment for our services over the phone.”
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules provide patients protection with respect to their health information, including important controls over how their health information is used and disclosed by health plans and health care providers. It is to ensure strong privacy rules are followed. Paying for the health insurance alone does not entitle you to receive information about your child’s medical treatments.
As a parent, you should talk with your child about health care decisions and ensure health care documents, such as an Advance Health Care Directive and a HIPAA Authorization for Release of Information, are properly drafted and signed. These documents will cover how decisions are to be made if your child is unable to make medical decisions for him or herself. Also, the HIPAA Authorization will allow you, as their parent to receive medical information at all times. If you are a grandparent of a young adult, you may wish to educate your children about their need to get these documents for their children.
All parents should be aware of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment). FERPA was designed to protect the privacy of educational records and to establish the rights of students to inspect and review their educational records. It also provides control over the release of educational record information. What does this mean for college parents? Generally, FERPA rules mean that student academic information such as grades or academic standing (GPA, academic transcript, academic warning, academic probation, or discipline records) will be given to the student and not to the parents. Most colleges have a waiver form that students can sign allowing records to be released to parents or college representatives, such as faculty members, to discuss records with parents.
Lastly, it would also be prudent for your child to sign a power of attorney for financial matters so that you could step in to assist them with their banking, bill paying and other financial affairs should they become seriously ill or injured.
So, while making that dorm shopping list, add an appointment for your child to come in they can fully understand their options for health care directives and powers of attorney. You will have peace of mind knowing you are able to receive complete information regarding your child’s medical condition, especially when you can’t be there.