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The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) was enacted in 1996 but its enforcement has become much stricter over the years. Among other things, this law specifically protects any information held by a hospital that concerns health status, provision of health care, or payment for health care that can be linked to an individual, including any part of an individual’s medical record or payment history. As a result of this law, many hospitals have not allowed patient information or condition to be released to the loved ones of an individual who is hospitalized, even if the patient is critically ill. Therefore, it is imperative that individuals be given the specific authority to receive the information protected under HIPPA.

Generally, Advance Healthcare Directives contain the necessary HIPPA provisions. However, documents prepared prior to 2003 may not contain the necessary language. Therefore, it is important to review older documents to ensure that they are in compliance. Those individuals listed as healthcare agents are the decision makers and will have full access to information under HIPAA as well as under the relevant California law (CMIA). However, if there are family members or other loved ones an individual would like to have access to information about their medical condition but not have the authority to make decisions, they should be named in a separate document referred to as a HIPAA Waiver. Those individuals who are not listed on either document will be denied access to any information, even if they are a member of their immediate family! Therefore, it becomes imperative that specific authorization under HIPAA and CMIA be included in one’s estate planning documents.

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