College in the Time of COVID-19: What you can do!
Many events we took for granted six months ago are out of our control. This undoubtedly is a source of stress. Whether or not your son or daughter will return to their college campus or start their freshman year remotely, for many, is still undecided. Even if a decision has been made it’s reasonable to assume it may change as we learn more about the virus.
Today, on my slow trot around the neighborhood I listened to a pod cast discussion on being responsible and taking action on issues that we can influence.
As an estate planning attorney, I thought of what parents of college aged students can do in the midst of such uncertainty.
I would advise all parents to spend the time now to complete any and all forms a college may require in order for them to have complete access to their child’s medical records.
If your child returns to campus and becomes ill you shouldn’t have to spend time quibbling over whether the health care facility can share the child’s medical records or status.
Privacy laws prohibit financial institutions and medical providers from disclosing private information concerning your child (aged 18 or older) to you without their permission. In addition, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student records.
HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY
The Health Care Power of Attorney allows your child to authorize you to make medical decisions if she is incapacitated and unable to do so.
Health services at some colleges only accept health care powers of attorney on the forms they provide and require that they be renewed EVERY YEAR! Contact health care services prior to the start of school to confirm you have the approvals necessary to make health care decisions for your child should they be incapacitated or unable to respond while on campus.
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) requires health care providers and insurance companies to protect the privacy of a patient’s health care information. Those who violate HIPAA laws are subject to civil and criminal penalties which makes them reluctant to share protected health care information without an authorization.
While it’s true an agent under a Health Care Power of Attorney has the authority to view the principal’s medical records, typically, the Health Care Power of Attorney does not grant authority until the principal is incapacitated. If capacity is not at issue, HIPAA regulations would prevent access to protected health information.
This means that medical information may not be readily shared with parents without the appropriate authorization.
By signing a HIPAA release your child can authorize medical facilities to share diagnoses and treatment options with you. You may also want access to medical records if there are disputes with an insurance company about the care your child received.
Calling the university today to request the forms that will allow you complete access to your child’s medical records, should they be hospitalized, is something in your control and that you can act on today.
In addition to health care information, parents may want to look into the ability to access academic and financial information.
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
FERPA protects the privacy of student education records. All institutions that receive federal funding must comply with FERPA. Once a student is 18 or attends a postsecondary institution, she becomes an eligible student and all rights formerly given to parents under FERPA transfer to the student.
FERPA contains a number of exceptions that allow disclosure of education records without consent.
If parents claim a child as a dependent for federal income tax purposes the schools are permitted to disclose educational records. If a child student is not claimed as a dependent, she can agree to allow the institution to disclose information.
Before the start of classes, contact the college as many schools have forms specifically to allow parents access to records
– for example-“Student Consent For Access to Educational Records”
Your child should complete the form provided by the institution and it should be on file at registrar’s office.
DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY
The Durable Power of Attorney will allow your child to authorize you to manage her financial affairs either immediately or in the future should she become mentally or physically unable to do so. This would authorize you to handle tasks such as paying bills, applying for government benefits and opening and closing accounts.
Banks are notorious for taking days to allow the corporate legal office to review powers of attorney prior to letting an agent act. They don’t want to be sued! Get bank’s approval that the power of attorney is acceptable and on file prior to emergency.
This is a time when we encourage our children to be self-reliant and financially responsible. To make ‘good decisions’. Though, currently, we are in a time of uncertainty and heightened health risks. In case of emergency or illness as a parent you need timely access to the information that will help you make the best decisions for your child should they be ill, incapacitated and/or in an emergency situation.