Legal Blog

The Weekly Scenario: Accessing a College Child’s Health Information

Question: How would I access my college aged child’s health information if there were a medical emergency?

Answer: No one would want to find out that their child had experienced a medical emergency. But what if your doctor refuses to speak with you about your own child’s illness or health problem? In many states, the age of majority is 18. Once your child turns 18, he or she is an adult under the eyes of the law (including the power to control access to private health information).

In 1996, Congress enacted HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) which contains a privacy provision that restricts health care providers from providing their patient’s personal health information to others (even parents of an adult child). After the age of majority, the child is legally an adult and thus access to his or her medical information is restricted to those individuals who have their patient’s permission. This is the case even if the child is still under his or her parents’ health insurance plan.

The problem is that because of the HIPAA rule, if the college age child doesn’t give access to his or her health information, family members could be left in the dark when it comes to a course of treatment.

One way to solve the problem is to plan ahead of time. If the child is able to complete and sign a HIPAA authorization such as an Advance Directive and Appointment of Health Care Surrogate granting authorization to the persons given authority (e.g., the parent), the parent can then have access to such information and assist in the case of an emergency.

Comment: These health care authorizations may be scanned into the medical records of the physician or be uploaded to a smart device for easy access.

As always, if you have any questions or would like to learn more, please let me know.


Steven E. Shane

Steve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts and charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.



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