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Children In College Need A Health Proxy

Have you just sent your child off to college for the first time? For your offspring, this marks a new, exciting chapter in life. But your child will also face new challenges and perils, and it makes sense to take precautions, such as obtaining a “health care proxy” (also known as a “health care power of attorney”) for your son or daughter. This document will give you access to your child’s medical history and enable you to make health care decisions in the case of a serious illness or injury.


Although health care proxies are frequently used for elderly relatives, the same basic premise applies to a child in college. Once your child turns age 18, he or she is treated as an adult for legal purposes. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), your child is entitled to full confidentiality unless you have a health care proxy. Without a proxy, you might not even learn of a child’s health problem at school or receive information about the child’s health status.

The health care proxy is a legally binding document appointing someone—usually another family member such as a parent—to make health care decisions for an individual if he or she is temporarily or permanently incapable of making those decisions. It’s a narrow power of attorney that gives authority to the designated party and allows you to take action on behalf of your child.

Of course, you can’t execute a health care proxy unilaterally. Your son or daughter will need to sign the document, thus giving up his or her right to complete medical privacy. But you can reassure children that you’ll have access to information about them only under very specific circumstances. A health care provider may discuss only the immediate medical condition, and only when prompt attention is needed for someone who is incapacitated. Very likely your kids will see the wisdom of having a health care proxy and may even be surprised to learn that otherwise you would have no say about their care even in life-threatening situations.

Once the proxy has been signed and notarized, you’ll need to make sure that everyone who might be involved in a child’s care knows that it exists. Give a copy to your child’s college health service as well as to physicians and hospitals in your town from whom your son or daughter might receive care. If your child has a car, you could put a copy of the proxy in the glove compartment, and you might want to give copies to close friends or roommates.

To get a form for the proxy, check online or with your physician or attorney. You can also file a HIPAA release form that gives you additional access to information about your child’s health.

This article was written by a professional financial journalist for Legend Financial Advisors, Inc. and is not intended as legal or investment advice.



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