Have you ever called a doctor’s office or a medical lab to get information about a bill your spouse received? When you call to inquire about the bill, the initial response (and sometimes their final one) will be that they cannot share information about a patient with anyone but the patient or an authorized representative.
The privacy regulations keeping them from talking with you, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), regulate the use and disclosure of protected health information concerning a patient.
Any health care provider or insurance company that uses computers in their normal course of business is subject to the law. Entities that violate HIPAA rules are subject to civil fines, as well as criminal penalties with possible jail time, which makes them extremely cautious sharing medical information with anyone but the patient, even close family members such as spouses and children.
This means that even though you may have been married to your spouse for years, you do not have the authority to sort out even a billing mistake without your spouse’s express permission.
If you want your spouse to be able to talk to doctor’s offices or insurance companies on your behalf, you need to sign a HIPAA authorization. A HIPAA authorization allows you to name an individual who can have access to your medical information so that your health care provider or insurance company have no reservations about sharing your protected medical information with them.
If you don’t have one of these, contact your estate planning attorney. And by the way, the same thing may occur regarding your children’s medical information after they graduate from high school.