What you should know about HIPAA — by Samuel B. Ledwitz, Esq.

Our federal and state governments are filled with wisdom. Unfortunately, one man’s wisdom is another man’s monkey on his back.
This is one way to describe a very important element of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Also known as HIPAA, the law – like everything in Washington – was written with the best of intentions and there are several very good provisions therein.
However, there is one little knot in HIPAA that can throw your entire estate plan into disarray and bring your caring family members unglued.
What HIPAA requires is that you give special written authority that a third party, such as an adult child, so he or she can access your medical information. This comes into play in case you become incapacitated. That is a medical determination made solely by doctors.
The problem is that those who have made an estate plan prior to 2004 when this part of the law kicked in and people without any estate plan are now thrown into this position of needing to get medical information about their loved one and need to communicate with medical personnel in order to obtain much needed medical information which might affect the estate plan.
Remember, you are of no help. You are incapacitated. No one will communicate with your family and it looks like all that planning you did is out the window. Basically, it’s as if the government came around and put a lock on everyone’s estate plan. If you don’t have the key, you’re in trouble.
And no doctor in this scenario can help you. Under HIPAA, if a doctor violates confidentiality he could face up to 10 years in jail and up to a $250,000 fine. California state law adds an additional $250,000 fine.
So, what do you do?
Luckily, the fix is easy. You just need an update to your trust and sign the proper form, a HIPAA medical waiver, which is a medical privacy waiver and is state compliant. This way your estate plan will work the way you thought it always would and without any problems.
Your family members can communicate with medical personnel about your condition and nobody has to pull out their hair.
Without signing this form, court action might have to be taken to get a hold of your loved one’s medical information. Valuable time and money are taken. People have been hurt without signing this form. And remember, it must be done before someone becomes incapacitated.
So sign the form.
Samuel B. Ledwitz is the president of Bezaire, Ledwitz, Borncamp, APC, an estate planning law firm based in Torrance, Calif. with offices throughout Southern California. For more information, please contact the firm at (310) 769-4783, or visit the firm’s website at http://www.familylegacylaw.com.

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