Q: My daughter will be heading off to college in the fall and a friend told me that I won’t be able to get information from the college about her grades or even about her health if she was sick. Is this true and if so, what can I do about it?
A: Yes, that is true. Once a child turns age 18, she is considered an adult in the eyes of the law and is entitled to the same privacy protections as every other adult. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that prohibits health care providers and insurers from sharing information about you without your permission. The law imposes monetary fines on medical providers who violate the HIPAA rules.
Your child may grant you access to her medical information by signing a HIPAA Authorization that releases her medical providers from any liability under HIPAA should they speak with the individuals named on the HIPAA Authorization. In addition to signing a HIPAA Authorization, your college student, and really everyone over the age of 18, should create a Health Care Proxy, that authorizes someone to make health care decisions for her if she is not able to do so herself.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. While a student is a minor, FERPA ensures that parents have certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. However, once the student reaches age 18, these rights transfer to the student.
Although you lose the right under the law to have access to this information about your child once she turns 18 years of age, your college student may grant you access to her educational records. In fact, most colleges and universities have a FERPA Release form that the student may sign authoring release of educational records to parents.
The key here is that your child, not you, must create and sign these documents and that your child will choose who to include on her HIPAA Authorization, who to designate as her Health Care Agent under her Health Care Proxy and whether to grant consent under FERPA.