Make sure your loved ones can get your medical info

If you’re in the hospital, you probably want certain family members and trusted friends to be able to get information about your condition or prognosis. But to make sure this happens, you may need to plan ahead.

A federal law called HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is designed to protect your health care privacy, and says that medical personnel can’t disclose your health care information to unauthorized people. Only a small number of people are authorized under HIPAA … so if you want other people to know about your condition, you have to authorize them in advance.

You can do this by signing a “HIPAA release form” specifying who can receive information and what type of information each person can receive. For instance, you could allow certain people to receive general information about you, but nothing highly personal such as mental health records, addiction treatment, HIV status, etc. You can also limit the period of time during which the authorization will be in effect.

Surprisingly, there is no one general form for this purpose. Many health care providers have their own forms, so you may want to plan ahead and get a form from any doctors, hospitals, or clinics that will be involved in your care. Some providers offer printable forms on their websites.

You can also find a generic form here:

It’s also a good idea to make sure your power of attorney and health care proxy documents state that your agent is also your HIPAA personal representative and is thus entitled to all health care disclosures.

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