What is HIPAA and How does it affect Estate Plans?

HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It was established in 1996 to:

  • Help ensure that people in-between jobs still have access to health insurance by disallowing pre-existing condition policies
  • Increase the standards by which a person’s health care information is shared between insurance companies, pharmacies, employers and other healthcare providers
  • Reduce the cost of health care by increasing efficiency

Protect personal healthcare information

In 2003, HIPAA’s privacy standards went into effect to protect personal medical records and other private health information. Currently, HIPAA protects information about an individual’s past, present and future mental and physical health, healthcare received and how healthcare was/is paid for. This means that you are the only one able to view your medical records and files unless you sign away rights to allow the information to be shared with another person or entity.

While HIPAA provides much needed protection to personal health records, it also creates complications—especially in estate planning. You see, if you have created a New Mexico durable power of attorney (see Estate Planning: New Mexico Advance Directives) to grant another individual the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated, they may not have access to the information they need to act on your behalf. In other words, healthcare professionals can only share your personal health information with people that you have given that right to. If the right to access your personal health information is not expressly stated in your durable power of attorney, your loved ones may have difficulty establishing that you are, in fact, incapacitated and need the person named in your durable power of attorney to make decisions for you.

As you develop an estate plan, it is imperative that you hire an attorney who can make your estate plan compliant with HIPAA. Our New Mexico estate planning lawyers stay up-to-date on the latest laws to ensure that our clients have firmly established estate plans that won’t fall apart from poor understanding of the law. We can give you the peace of mind you seek in an estate plan by helping you craft an estate plan that is compliant with HIPAA.

Contact one of our New Mexico estate planning lawyers in Albuquerque, Farmington, Las Cruces, Roswell or Santa Fe to make sure your estate plan is HIPAA-friendly today.

For more information about HIPAA see http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/