Okay, HATE is a strong word so let me just say that we highly dislike it.  The HIPAA law is the nemesis of all cargivers who are trying to help their aging parents or loved ones simply get things done!

The HIPAA law stands for The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which was passed by Congress in 1996.  This act was passed to accomplish a few things:

  • Protects workers  when they lose or change their jobs from losing their insurance
  • Helps to prevent health care fraud and abuse
  • Provides for Administrative simplification
  • Provides for security and privacy of personal health data

Having worked in the health care industry for many many years, there are a few things that I would like to address in reference to the above provisions…………but I won’t.  Today, I just want to comment on the frustrations that this law has caused me while trying to help my parents.

When my father was alive, I had conservatorship/guardianship for him.  For every single agency that we dealt with in regards to his medical, financial or government related activities, there was not an ability to obtain information unless the agency had a valid copy of the court papers.  Often, even when they did, someone forgot to document the fact and I was unable to act on his behalf before sending in papers YET AGAIN.  When decisions were needed immediately, this posed a problem.

Now I’m begining to act on my Mom’s behalf but this time I have no legal documents.  Mom is 86, hard of hearing and beginning to show some signs of a wee bit of memory loss (so that when an agency official gives her advice, she doesn’t really get the full affect of what they are telling her). She also doesn’t use the computer.  Add to that the fact that she has moved to Canada where American “800” numbers don’t work and that very few agencies have non “800” numbers anymore and it all becomes complete chaos.

I have been working on getting her social security checks transferred to her new bank in Canada for the past two months.  She has not received a check from them since December.  There is no number that she can call and THEY will not call her.  When I have called them, they will not offer me any information but they will allow me to GIVE them information, which I do.  But then I have no idea whether they have comprehended what I just told them or what actions they are going to take to rememdy the situation because they won’t tell me!  The advice I have been given is to have my mother make me a “representative” so that I can receive information which takes time, more paperwork and my Mom is VERY hesitant to have anyone “represent” her.  Oh, they also suggested that she could return to the United States whereby she could use the 800 number.  UGH!

After going back and forth for 2 months, I was finally able to find a local social security office who agreed to call her and get it all straightened out…………..we think.

NEXT problem: Medicare Part B is taking money from her social security payments because they do not have her listed as being signed up for a private Part B plan.  I won’t bore you with the details – more calls, more denials to provide information, more roadblocks.

Yesterday, I asked my mother to check her bank statement to see if she was receiving her money but she says she’s not receiving bank statements.  Here we go again!

I realize that the day is coming when my mother will need to turn over her financial dealings to one of my siblings or me but even after having “the talk”, she’s not willing to go that route.  (She moved to Canada ALONE! She’s a feisty senior citizen!)

We must work on creating a way where we can help our elders without bringing fear upon them that we are trying to take over.  Perhaps a differently named document could be created by financial, medical and legal institutions that just provides for the ability to obtain SIMPLE information.  Many elders are fearful of the use of powers of attorney or of placing their children’s names on their accounts or even of having them listed as persons to whom information can be given.  But when I can’t even contact the post office to provide a forwarding address for a parent, I would say that we’ve gone way too far with the privacy laws!

What’s your take?


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