[ Tuesday, January 31, 2012 ]


Guest Post:

How HIPAA Can Affect College Students
Normally the media publishes stories about HIPAA in relation to medical data breaches by negligent clinicians out of compliance or in the context of the law creating a significant burden for practices now trusted to maintain their patients’ records with the utmost vigilance. Though HIPAA was intended for the salutatory purpose of making health care safer and more feasible for the average American, some of its key components made unintentional victims out of certain demographics. Though it may not be self-evident, college students represent a sizeable proportion of people beleaguered by the red tape that HIPAA constructs around the American health care system. In fact, most college students don’t even understand the ramifications of HIPAA legislation until they inadvertently come up against one of its many key components.

Becoming of age
Once a child turns 18, they are in command of their medical records and relevant history. Under HIPAA, the parents of a young adult 18 or older cannot request for information concerning their medical history unless they receive their written consent. So by the time most students enter college for their first year, they are expected (in legal terms) to manage their health care on their own. This fact usually comes as a shock to students who normally rely on their parents to schedule doctor’s visits, transfer records to schools or employers, and generally keep an eye on their health care coverage. Students can combat their ignorance of their obligations as young adults with medical records by requesting and reviewing previous records from their family doctors for the most up-to-date material on their general health. Though the prospect of reviewing one’s own health records might seem strange, a great deal of college students never consider their medical history unless they suffer from a serious condition that requires constant attention.

Students of age can also review their privacy rights at the U.S. Depart of Health and Human Services’ website, which offers a comprehensive (if a little dense) explanation for most issues related with the privacy rights of American citizens with health care. It’s an important resource for anyone to read, but it’s more critical for college students who are mostly in the dark about their newfound medical privacy rights.

Under the family health insurance plan
Somewhat paradoxically, college students cannot have their parents access their medical history after they hit the 18 year mark, but they can continue to be covered on their parents’ insurance plans. Now normally this wouldn’t seem like that big of a deal: students go to doctors’ appointments as they deem necessary and the parents pay the insurance without ever needing to consult their children’s medical records.

But say for instance that a college student is going to school out of state and they have a condition that must be treated regularly, preferably in the state where they go to school. The continuing of treatment out of state will likely require collaboration between the doctor’s office in the student’s home state and the office in the state where they go to school. If the case is particularly complicated, the parents may try to help to ease the burden by collaborating with the doctors on behalf of their children. Not so fast. Remember that under HIPAA, those over 18 are the only ones allowed access to medical records and related histories. Even if a parent provides the insurance that covers their child’s care in another state, they cannot access the information necessary to facilitate a transfer of medical information between two offices without the written consent of the patient. In many case, the patient may have to write their consent in front of an official witness to testify the legitimacy of their signature! Though this is an extreme circumstance, it’s best for college students to know where they stand when it comes to the privacy of their medical records.

This is a guest post by Kimberly Wilson. Kimberly is from accredited online colleges, she writes on topics including career, education, student life, college life, home improvement, time management, etc.

Jeff [11:39 AM]

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