After a few clients ran into difficulty getting information about adult children who were ill, Sheila Benninger, an attorney in Chapel Hill, N.C., began recommending that clients' children designate a health-care power of attorney after they turn 18 to identify who can speak for them if they can't.It's good advice for those of us shipping one more child back to college this week.
She also includes a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, release form that allows patients to determine who can receive information about their medical care and whether information about treatment for substance abuse, mental health or sexually transmitted diseases can be disclosed.
You don't have to use a lawyer. Generic health-care power-of-attorney forms can be found online. If the school has a HIPAA release online, it's best to use that more-tailored document.
Parents should keep a copy in an email folder, where it can be easily accessed in an emergency. And students should designate a general power of attorney so someone can pay bills or handle other issues if they go abroad.