A health care proxy or durable medical power of attorney is an advance health care directive that appoints an agent to act in your behalf should you become incapacitated and unable to make your own medical decisions. This along with a living will within which you state your health care preferences are two rudimentary components to most estate plans. However, there is a third piece to the puzzle that is also useful in response to the passing of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
When you make a health insurance claim or go to a doctor or pharmacy the details are all kept on record, and due to the passage of the HIPAA this information is not to be released to anyone without your permission. The purpose of the act was to protect your right to privacy and confidentiality, but it has created some unintended consequences.
Because of the way that some hospitals and health care providers choose to interpret the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, many estate planning attorneys recommend the inclusion of a HIPAA release along with your advance health care directives. When the release can be shown the hospital has no pretext for withholding information from the proxy. In addition, some people may choose to include multiple family members on the HIPAA release so that they can all freely have engage in a useful dialogue with health care providers.
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