As many parents are sending their children off to their freshman year of college, they may think that they are fully prepared for their upcoming year. But what many parents forget is that although your child will always be your baby, once they turn eighteen, the HIPAA laws say otherwise.

If your child has reached this “age of majority” even though you are their parent, they are legally adults. This means that they have privacy rights that cannot be breached without the proper documentation.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects the privacy of an individual’s medical records and diagnosis. Once your child turns eighteen, they receive this privacy and protection, even if they are still covered by your insurance. This means that from the college clinic, counseling services, or the family doctor, no one is authorized to share medical information with you without your child’s express consent. In case of an emergency or accident, it also means that health care personnel are legally limited on what they can share with you. There is an exception if the patient is unable to communicate and the treating physician believes that the safety and health of their patient would be aided by sharing information with family members present. Plan ahead to make sure you can gain access to records and give informed consent to life-saving treatments.

Having a lawyer sit down with your young adult to draft a Health Care Power of Attorney naming their parents as their lawful agent can cut through a lot of red tape in case of an emergency. Effective estate planning can give you and your loved ones peace of mind.