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All too many times overwhelmed caregivers are physically and emotionally depleted and need to take time to rest and care for themselves. Believing in a holistic approach to caregiver stress and a strong commitment to helping our members find the right solutions, we created this blog to help you connect with others who, like you, may be facing the same eldercare issues and challenges. Feel free to comment, ask questions, and submit articles. Please forward the blog link to your family and friends. They'll be glad you did.

Warm regards,

Patricia Grace
founder & CEO
Aging with Grace

Friday, December 02, 2011

Is your power of attorney aware of HIPPA regulations?

With the New Year rapidly approaching now is the perfect time to start getting your financial and legal affairs in order. The following information will explain the differences between a Power of Attorney (POA) and a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney; and how HIPPA affects both.

A power of attorney (POA) and a health care proxy are two of the most important estate planning documents you can have, but in some instances they may be useless if they don't comply with the federal privacy law.

A POA allows someone you designate (your "agent" or "attorney-in-fact") to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated. A health care proxy specifies who will make medical decisions for you. For these documents to be effective, your agents may need to be able to access your medical information. However, medical information is private. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects health care privacy and prevents disclosure of health care information to unauthorized people. HIPAA authorizes the release of medical information only to a patient's "personal representative."

HIPAA can be a problem especially if you have a durable healthcare power (also known as a "springing POA) attorney. A springing POA doesn't go into effect until you become incapacitated. This means your agent doesn't have any authority until you are declared incompetent, but, under HIPAA, the person won't be able to get the medical information necessary to determine incompetence until the agent has authority.

To make sure your agent doesn't get caught in this "Catch-22", your POA and health care proxy should contain a HIPAA clause that explains that the agent is also the personal representative for the purposes of health care disclosures under HIPAA. You should also sign separate HIPAA release forms that explain what medical information can be disclosed, who can make the disclosure, and to whom the disclosure can be made.

Contact your elder law attorney to make sure your POA and health care proxy do not conflict with HIPAA.

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