Documents Every College Student Should Sign - We'll Make It Happen
March 20, 2020 | Freya Allen Shoffner, Esquire | Main Office


Early one March morning, Jessica, a mother of three from the Boston area, stepped out of the shower to a ringing phone. On the other end, her 22-year-old son's college roommate delivered terrifying news. Her son—who was thousands of miles away in Los Angeles—was being rushed by ambulance to an emergency room with a high fever, congestion, and a dry cough. "I was scared out of my mind, imagining the worst," Jessica said.

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Jessica called the ER in a panic asking for details about her son. What she got instead was a nasty refusal from a nurse. "He asked me how old my son was, and when I said 22, he told me I had no right to talk to the doctor," Jessica said.

Jessica was sure that the nurse was out of line and she wanted me to "Do Something!!!" Unfortunately, the nurse was right, due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the nurse had every right not to disclose the son's medical condition.

The fact is, as soon as your child reaches the age of majority in your state, your child is legally a stranger to you. You have no more right to your child's medical information than your plumber's medical information. And it doesn't matter if your child is covered under your health insurance and you are paying the bill.

To make sure that you don't have a crisis like Jessica did, make sure that your adult child completes the 3 critical forms.

First, a HIPAA authorization: A signed HIPAA authorization is like a permission slip. It allows healthcare providers to disclose your health information to anyone you specify. A stand-alone HIPAA authorization (not incorporated into a broader legal document) doesn't have to be notarized or witnessed. If Jessica's son had signed one of these for his mother before he left for Los Angeles, Jessica could have gotten the information from the doctor that she needed. A young person who wants parents to be involved in a medical emergency, but fear disclosure of sensitive information doesn't need to worry; HIPAA authorization doesn't have to be all-encompassing. Young adults can limit the amount of information their parents can receive and eliminate disclosure of information about sex, drugs, mental health, or other details they might want to keep private.

Second, a Medical power of attorney: In Massachusetts a Medical Power of Attorney is called a Health Care Proxy. By signing a Health Care Proxy, your adult child appoints an "agent" to make medical decisions on their behalf in case your child is incapacitated and can't make those decisions on their own. Each state has its own laws about the creation and execution of these documents and whether the medical POA requires the signature of a witness or notary varies by state.

Durable power of attorney: A durable power of attorney allows a parent or other designated adult to take care of business matters on behalf of another person If the student becomes incapacitated or if he or she is studying abroad, the durable power of attorney would allow the "attorney-in-fact" to sign tax returns, access bank accounts, and pay bills, among other things. Durable POA forms vary by state. In some states the medical POA can be included in the durable POA form.

Call us or write to us. We'll prepare the right forms for your young adult so that you won't be frightened and frantic like Jessica.

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