HIPAA and Medical/Financial Power of Attorney-why you need them!!

This is all about YOU and how you can prevent an hellacious (bad or overwhelming) set of conditions for your family, friends, loved ones (not always family, I found out….hahaha). I have just have experienced this so now I am sharing my story.

How many of you have every thought about what would happen if you were injured, suffered a stroke, heart attack, or were temporarily incapacitated?   Haven’t really thought about it? Still young?  Feeling great? Don’t think that you are going to die soon? well….silly you. And I mean, Silly You!

“I’m married.”  “I have family.” “I am in excellent health.” So why am I a “Silly You”?

  • If you require hospitalization or visit the ER:  You must sign a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) release for immediate (except spouse) family, friends, and loved ones to get ANY information about you, including your condition, treatments, medications, general information. Why? because HIPAA  “protects your medical records and other health information provided by health plans, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers” per MedicineNet. So why would you care?
  • If you are in an accident, undergo surgery, experience a stroke, TIA (transient ischemic attack), heart attack, etc. and are temporarily or even permanently unable to approve a HIPAA, even your own parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, etc. will not have access to you except to visit. Want to ask the doctor a question? Forget abbouditt. Yup, that’s right.
  • Huh?? Well, good luck getting past the “gatekeepers” without a medical power of attorney or a HIPAA release form.

My 86 mother had a medical emergency last year. I live 8 hours away by car.  I drove up there and I spent 3 months taking care of her.  My mother has dementia which waxes and wanes, and she was able to give a HIPAA release so the doctors could talk to me.  I insisted that my father  hired an  attorney who drew up a medical POA and a financial durable POA for the two of them which listed me as their secondary. Good move!

On August 2, 2018 my 87 year old father had a stroke. He did not know it. On August 3, he was driving on the freeway. He had stopped on the shoulder to change a flat tire.  The police pulled up to help him and he was incoherent so he was transported to the local ER. While enroute, he could at least coherently say “My wife is home alone.” Long story about how the police found my phone number to call me and I won’t bore you with details.

Because I had the medical POA, which I faxed to the ER and the hospital floor once he was admitted, this allowed them to call me and discuss his condition and treatment plan. Side story….I called the hospital that evening to check on him and there was no one with that name admitted.  Well, I asked them to check again…on hold….holding….the operator came back and asked me how old he was. Well, he was admitted as an “unknown” because there was no one “to identify him” despite having his driver’s license and insurance card on him.

Now in order to take care of my mother while dad was in rehab because she has her own issues,  I had to  fax my mother’s  medical POA to her doctor’s office then I called for an appointment for her. I would like to personally thank those practices who keep you on hold for 30-45 minutes while they ‘care about your call, it will be answered in the order it was received’ and then balk at giving you their fax number or email so you can send them the medical POA because they cannot confirm or deny that she is a patient. And then, they cannot confirm or deny that they received the fax. So I told them that I would “hold” while they looked for it.  They found it…and scheduled an appointment.  I felt like I was in a Monty Python skit.

Also, thankfully,  I could temporarily invoke the DPOA (durable power of attorney) and can pay their bills, etc. Another smart move. because without it, I would have to use my own money, honey. And another side story…none of us children were on their bank accounts as signature so I had to use the DPOA to get money for them.

So why are you a “Silly You” if you do not have a HIPAA release, a medical POA and a financial POA?

Because you are royally screwed without them. Go  to your state’s HIPAA site, print off a copy and sign it and list who can have information. And get a medical POA and a POA. It will save you a lot of time and grief. It is much cheaper to pay an attorney to draw up the papers or to use Legal Zoom than the potential headaches and heartaches that you and your family will endure if you do not have these documents.

Make sure a trusted family member has medical POA to help you with your medical needs, treatments, and wishes. If you are in a coma, do you really want your angry, estranged wife/husband making your medical decisions? Think about it…..meanwhile, all your loving adult children and parents are running around getting all stressed out about it, unable to help you.

Post script:  Important notice: get a list of everyone’s PIN, sign on and passwords. Hope they can trust you. Because once they are incapacitated, all bets are off.  You will have a stinking mess to sort out.  Get a list of all their bank accounts  and safe deposit boxes, insurance carriers, etc. and get listed as a “signer” or ” payable on death” so you don’t have to fight the system. So if they don’t trust you, find someone they will give the information to and hope for the best. And make a will.  Trust me. you may be dead but you want to make sure that you have been treated well before you die and that you leave your “estate” in good order. Before no good, stupid family members take it all….and they will….if you don’t have one.

Oh, interesting developments with 23 And Me and Ancestry.com, you may have relatives that you don’t even know about….and they will show up at your door and may lay a claim to the estate. Yup, big mess. That’s for my next blog….


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