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Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group
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Estate Planning, Healthcare Proxies, & HIPAA: Understanding Your Privacy Rights


The American Rescue Plan Act recently passed, and it expands eligibility for many citizens to obtain tax credit premiums for the cost of health insurance. It also expands funding for the Older Americans Act (OAA) in addition to Medicaid Home Health Services. But many consumers have questions about privacy rights and healthcare organizations, given the rise in ransomware and cyber attacks. In addition, many older adults have questions about their personal privacy and health privacy. How can you protect your personal health information while also planning for the future, and what protection does the government mandate? 

What is HIPAA and PHI ?

HIPAA stands for Health Information Privacy Access Act. HIPAA protects patient privacy and the disclosure of confidential health information to other parties, family members or anyone else the patient expressly forbids. HIPAA also means that the patient must sign a release for medical records prior to switching doctors, seeing a specialist, or allowing an attorney to request medical records on their behalf for a legal case. One incentive of HIPAA is protecting the medical privacy of the patient. Usually one of the standard forms you fill out in a physician registration packet is who you want to disclose medical information to. You can write none, and this means that even your spouse cannot be “filled in” if they were to call the provider about your medical condition.

However, if you have already designated your spouse as a healthcare proxy or grant them durable power of attorney in the event you no longer have the mental capacity or are in a coma, it makes sense to designate them as a person you want your doctor to share medical history with. PHI stands for Personal Health Information, and it includes your health records, prescriptions, progress notes, referrals, family medical history and other private information protected from unauthorized disclosure.

What about Electronic Medical Records and the HITECH Act?

HITECH is an acronym for Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act. Passed in 2009, HITECH was intended to promote meaningful use technology among providers and their patients. HITECH emphasizes the importance of information security and protecting patient health information and the penalties for violating HIPAA rules. HITECH encourages the use of EHR, or electronic health record usage. Now in 2021, using EHR is standard but unfortunately some healthcare organizations and their patients have fallen victim to cyber attacks. You can protect your personal health information by restricting authorization unless medically necessary and minimizing records and personal information you keep in hard copy. You should also review your hospital or provider’s privacy policy.  Electronic medical records are beneficial because you are able to view your own progress notes, bloodwork, testing and imaging results, and communicate with your doctor in real-time. If you are comfortable using a computer or smartphone, ask your primary care provider about telehealth options or instructions for accessing your electronic health records. And be sure to provide your physician with a copy of your advanced directive and healthcare proxy information.

Contact Us Today for Help 

Healthcare laws are complicated. Knowing how to navigate your own insurance benefits, how to reach the doctor if you are sick, or what information you shouldn’t disclose to the wrong person can be difficult. And the unfortunate reality is that seniors are targeted for scams and fraud, including healthcare fraud. It’s important that you understand your rights as a patient and as a consumer, and that you plan for contingencies and unexpected health events. Designating a healthcare proxy and drafting an advanced directive or living will can give you peace of mind. Rest assured that your healthcare providers will adhere to your wishes, and that our attorneys will work hard to ensure all of your needs are met. Our estate planning lawyers at Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group are dedicated to providing excellent service to all our clients and are conveniently located in the Villages. Call us today to schedule a consultation.



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