As a business owner, keeping informed about the finer points of employment law is important. If you're getting ready to hire your first employees, you need to be sure that you understand exactly what you can and cannot do. Don't risk getting yourself into legal trouble by asking the wrong question at the interview or making an off-hand comment that's considered legally unacceptable. I created this site to give you the basics of employment law expectations. I hope that the information here helps you to understand what you should and shouldn't do as you're interviewing and hiring your first staff members.
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was enacted to protect a patient's medical privacy. For anyone to get access to your medical records, there are forms to be filled out stating who the nurse or doctor can speak to in regards to your health issues. However, what happens when you die? Does anyone have access to your medical records or do the medical files get sealed and put away?
HIPAA After Death
HIPAA does not only protect patients while they are alive. It also protect them after death. According to the Journal of Ahima, HIPAA will protect a patient's medical records for 50 years after their death. After that, medical records can be accessed by family members, mostly for genealogy purposes. However, state laws may prohibit this, so you would need to contact the state in which the medical records are held to see if you can access them.
Who Can Access Your Medical Records
If you have appointed a personal representative to your estate, they will have legal access to your medical records after your death. If you have not appointed anyone to handle your estate, then the state where you reside will determine who best fits that role. Typically, it is a spouse, grown child or sibling, and they will get access to the medical records.
Also, if you have signed a HIPAA form that gives the nurses and doctors permission to speak to certain named individuals about your health, those named individuals will also have access. For example, you have given the nurse and doctor permission to speak to your sibling about your medical treatment, but your spouse is the personal representative to your estate. After your death, your sibling will have access to your medical files, just like your spouse will.
Limiting Who Has Access to Your Records
Before you die, you can make provision on who cannot access the medical records after your death, even if you had given them permission while you were alive. The personal representative will legally get access no matter what. However, if you wish to not share your records with anyone you have given HIPAA permission to, you can state that desire.
If you do not want certain people to access your medical records after you die, then you should carefully pick the person that will be handling your estate upon your death and those you give the access to while you are living. If you wish to keep your medical records private, then you should seek a lawyer's counsel to make sure that your desires will be legally held up after your death. Contact a professional like Robert J Willis, Attorney at Law for more information.