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HIPAA: Protecting Your Personal Health Information

What is HIPAA?

Personal health information is something that many of us want to keep private.  Since 1996, the national guidelines for medical data confidentiality established under the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act” (HIPAA) have protected your personal medical information from being disclosed to others without your permission.  

HIPAA also helps to keep your disability planning private.  Since DNR orders and Living Wills are contained within your medical records, HIPAA protects that information from being released without your consent.

If you so choose, HIPAA can protect your medical information from being released to anyone other than yourself and your health care providers.  However, HIPAA can make it difficult for others (for example, your appointed health care proxy or trustee) who you may want to have access to your medical files in the future.

Under HIPAA law, your Protected Health Information (PHI) which includes health evaluations, history and payment records cannot be shared or disseminated without your written permission.  Health care providers must keep your PHI confidential unless you waive your HIPAA protections or your information becomes subject to an exception under the law.


How Does HIPAA Affect Estate Planning?

HIPAA can affect your estate plan in a number of ways.  For example:

  • If you have a Living Trust, your appointed trustee may require access to your medical records in order to establish your mental capacity.  
  • If you have a Healthcare Power of Attorney, your health care proxy may need access to your medical records in order to establish your ability to make informed medical decisions.
  • The amount of information available to the executor of your will may be limited because HIPAA protects your medical records even after your death.

Therefore, your estate planning documents, including those related to planning for disability, should comply with HIPAA.  These documents should be created with provisions that allow a “personal representative” to have access to your medical records while complying with HIPAA’s privacy standards.


We Can Help

At Fingeret Law, our estate planning attorneys in Pittsburgh can help you prepare your estate planning documents in compliance with HIPAA.  To discuss your specific needs and find out how our estate planning attorneys can help you, please call us at Fingeret Law at 412-254-8533 or contact us online.