Is your Advance Medical Directive too old? In 2001 Congress enacted rules governing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (or HIPAA). Part of the act deals with the privacy of medical records and who can and cannot have access to them. Thus, if your Advance Medical Directive was written before 2001, then you will need a new one that contains the appropriate HIPAA release language.
And beware - at least once a week it seems that I come across an Advance Medical Directive that was signed after 2001 that nonetheless does not contain the necessary HIPAA release language.
What Will Happen Without HIPAA Release Language?
What will happen if your Advance Medical Directive does not contain any references to HIPAA and therefore the appropriate releases? Then your health care agent may not be able to make informed decisions about your medical treatment because your agent will not have any access to your medical records. This is particularly important if you have named someone other than a close relative as your health care agent since distant relatives and non-family members will definitely be denied access to your medical records and information without the appropriate HIPAA releases.
What You Should Do
If it has been a while since you signed your Advance Medical Directive or if you are not sure if yours is update to date with regard to HIPAA, then check with your estate planning attorney to insure that your directive contains the appropriate references to and releases from the HIPAA rules.