HIPAA Authorization vs. Health Care Power of Attorney: Why do I need a HIPAA Authorization?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), is a Federal law that requires the establishment of standards to protect the privacy of patients’ health care information. HIPAA limits health care providers and insurance companies from sharing protected health information with third parties. A HIPAA authorization allows you to name an individual who can have access to your medical information in addition to the right to be present during the discussion of your medical treatment.

Here in North Carolina, the statutory Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA) form does include language that authorizes your health care agent to access protected health care information. However, it is important and critical to remember that an agent under a HCPOA can only act once a physician has certified that you are incompetent and incapable of making your own health care decisions.

You may find that you would like to have your agent access your medical records prior to a determination of incapacity. For example, you may need your agent to contact your doctor’s office regarding questions about billing or discussions about your medical condition if you are ill or hospitalized.  Having a HIPAA authorization would allow your agent to do that with ease.

The harsh penalties associated with violating HIPAA often make health care providers and insurance companies extremely cautious when it comes to sharing protected health care information with anyone except for the patient. As such, it is advisable to sign a separate HIPPA authorization.