Medical Powers of Attorney and Directives

Can A Spouse Access Health Care Information Without A HIPAA Authorization?

by Rania Combs

StethescopeA few weeks ago, my husband received a bill from a medical provider for some routine blood tests his physician had recommended.

We had already received a bill for the same service, which was a fraction of the amount billed on the new invoice, so we were sure there must have been some mistake. Because my husband’s work schedule had been unusually hectic, I called the medical provider to sort the whole thing out.

When I called the billing department, an automated greeting informed me that because of privacy regulations, the billing department could not share information about a patient with anyone but the patient or an authorized representative.

The privacy regulations the automated greeting referenced, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), regulates 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 about sharing medical information with anyone but the patient, even close family members such as spouses and children.

This means that even though my husband and I have been married for almost 19 years, I wouldn’t have had the authority to sort out even a billing mistake without his 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.

About Rania

Rania graduated magna cum laude from South Texas College of Law Houston and is the founder of Rania Combs Law, PLLC. She has been licensed to practice law since 1994 and enjoys helping clients in Texas and North Carolina create estate plans that give them peace of mind.

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  1. Elizabeth Telles

    May 22, 2016 at 2:37am

    I am an RN in an OB/GYN office. We have a Call Center triaging calls. When someone other than patient is calling, whom is responsible for informing callers that we cannot talk to them without patient consent? I feel they should be relaying this info as they are taking the initial call.

    1. Rania Combs

      June 15, 2016 at 10:39pm

      My doctor’s office has a recording before anyone answers the phone notifying callers that office staff could not share information about a patient with anyone but the patient or an authorized representative.