Preparing college students for health care decisions

SAN ANTONIO – When people head off to college, things such as tuition, roommates and dorm decor are top of mind,  but health care can get left off the big to-do list.

Health care advocates say a couple of key legal documents can help smooth the way if a child suffers a medical emergency.

Once children reach the age of 18, parents typically can’t make medical decisions on their behalf. And, should a child be rushed to a hospital, his or her parent may not be able to get any medical information because they are no longer privy to it.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, authorization is a signed authorization that allows health care providers to disclose information to the people specified on the form.  This document does not have to be notarized. 

A young adult may stipulate whether he wants to disclose certain information, such as sex- or drug-related information.

By signing a medical power of attorney, a young adult can appoint an agent to make medical decisions on his or her behalf in case he or she is incapacitated. A medical power of attorney in Texas requires a notary.

Signing a durable power of attorney document allows a student to appoint a parent or other designated person to take care of financial business on his or her behalf if he or she is unable to do so.

Students should:

Have a copy of their insurance card.

Know where to go if they are sick and how to pay.

Put contact information for student health services, an urgent care and the nearest hospital in their phone.

Should be aware of the symptoms of serious illnesses such as meningitis, allergic reactions, influenza and pneumonia.

About the Author: