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HIPAA and the Far Reaches of Patient Rights

– Authored by:  Kendra R. Rozboril

You’ve probably heard of “HIPAA.” But are you aware of exactly how it may impact your family? In 1996, the federal government passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, more commonly known as “HIPAA.” In 2004, Michigan followed suit, passing its own similar laws. So what does this federal and state legislation do? HIPAA allows a patient to designate a person, or multiple people, to have access to the patient’s medical records. Essentially, because of HIPAA, without proper designation, you may not have access to your loved one’s medical records, including your minor child or spouse.

When it comes to your children’s medical records, it is important to realize that HIPAA does not protect only adults. For example, under Michigan law, any minor who has reached the age of 14 may restrict access to their mental health records. In fact, a treating mental health professional cannot disclose the fact that an at least 14-year-old minor is receiving services, without that minor’s consent. Thus, without a signed HIPAA authorization from the minor, parents may be left in the dark about their child’s mental health services.

Another common misconception is that you have automatic access to your spouse’s medical records. Based on HIPAA, a patient must designate that their spouse is entitled to, and can have access to, those records. HIPAA has now made it law that any adult must sign paperwork specifically stating who they want to have access to their medical records. If you and your spouse wish to grant each other access to medical records, your estate plan should contain the proper designations.

Because Michigan did not pass its own laws regarding HIPAA until 2004, any estate planning documents drafted before that time may need updating. If you have questions about how the many facets of HIPAA impact you, your HIPAA documents were drafted before 2004, or you do not have HIPAA documents at all, contact our office today at (248) 792-9193 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys.

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