Decades ago we published a piece warning parents sending their kids to college for the first time to provide their children with more than what freshmen need to pack for their lives at school. Our article described materials the undergrads should leave at home with their parents, as well as take away to the university: every student who is over eighteen should (MUST), leave their parents with an Advance Health Care Directive, a Durable Power of Attorney for Property and Finances, and a very strongly drafted HIPAA form.
We gave out reams of these articles to parents and students, but over time, for no particular reason, the distribution flow dried up. We stopped circulating the article, except to our own clients at the workplace whom we knew had children going off to school.
Sadly, one fine young man of our acquaintance left to study on the East Coast, well equipped for his academics, but without any of the paperwork for his parents when he got sick. He went across the country, leaving his family in Orange without the tools to talk to doctors, hospitals, nurses, or any other health care provider when, as it tragically came to pass, he had a heart attack away from home.
The result was too painful to fully relate. Just know that even after this wonderful fellow had passed on, his family was not able retrieve their son’s medical records to learn what precisely had taken their cherished child. Before he died, Mom and Dad could not discuss matters with the health care providers, who were simply following the law as provided by our Congress.
We do not want this to ever happen again. Here is the paperwork you MUST have for your offspring before they go away for school, once they are eighteen:
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act): a US law preventing your contact with health plans, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers without a HIPAA form. You CANNOT plan on talking to these people WITHOUT THE HIPAA FORM on file. If they do talk to you without a HIPAA authorization, they are putting themselves and their employer at risk
ADVANCE HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE: While HIPAA forms allow you to talk to the Medical people, the Advance Health Care Directive gives you the authority to direct doctors and make decisions about the student’s care when your child is not able to do so. Access to medical information is worthless without the authority to tell the doctors what to do next.
DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR PROPERTY AND FINANCE: Gives you authority to talk and deal with your student’s bank, his dormitory, university, employer and other entities who can sometimes help in crisis situations.
Each of these documents is indispensable. No parent should say goodbye without all of these forms on hand at home and in the files of the new scholar’s school. No exceptions to this rule: Keep originals of each in your files at home, and be sure that the school which he or she will be attending has copies on file so that they have been notified in advance of your preparations.
Parents want college to be a time of learning and wonder. Nothing we have advised will detract from that experience; instead, proper planning will remove one worry from the lives of Mom and Dad as they send their future President off to the Ivy-covered halls.