HIPAA is abbreviation for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. HIPAA is a federal law that, among other things, protects the privacy of patients and strictly limits the people to whom medical professionals may disclose medical information about their patients and with whom they may discuss their patients’ treatment.
A HIPAA Medical Records Authorization, also called a HIPAA Release, is a legal document that allows a patient to grant to specific people access to his or her medical records. The HIPAA Release also permits the patient’s health care professionals, including doctors, to discuss the patient’s medical treatment with the individuals listed in the Release.
A HIPAA Medical Records Authorization is an important part of the estate plan. Any person whom you have listed as a primary or back-up fiduciary in any of your estate planning documents, including agents under a Durable Power of Attorney or Health Care Power of Attorney, Executors of your Last Will and Testament, or Trustees of Trusts, should be included in your HIPAA Release. This is so that these individuals will have access to your doctors so that they may best perform their duties to you in the event you are hospitalized and/or incapacitated.
At a minimum, you should send a copy of your HIPAA Medical Records Authorization to your primary care physician, any other doctors you see regularly, and your regular hospital. You should also include a copy of your HIPAA Release with every copy of your Health Care Power of Attorney.