Friday, November 19, 2010

Legal Tip: Who Wins -- Mom vs. HIPAA

Legal Hypothetical:

Sandy, a 16-year old, goes to see her pediatrician because she wants birth control pills.  She does not tell her parents she is going to the doctor.  Sandy's mom receives a bill from the pediatrician.  She calls to find out why she is receiving a bill, the office staff tells her that they cannot discuss any matters related to Sandy's health with her.  Sandy's mom says, "Well, I'm not paying unless I know why my 16-year old daughter went to the doctor."

Does Sandy's mom have a legal right to know why her daughter went to the doctor?

No.  Under health information privacy laws (HIPAA), healthcare providers are not allowed to give private medical information out without a patient's consent.  Only in the case where the patient is unable to consent, such as a child under 12, is the healthcare provider allowed to discuss the child's condition with a parent without the child's consent.

Does Mom still have to pay the bill?

Yes.  Under the Doctrine of Necessities, a parent is financially responsible for a minor child's healthcare unless a court has ruled otherwise, e.g., termination of parental rights, custody issues.

As usual, every situation is unique.  Please consult with an attorney to determine all of the legal options available.

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Firm Partner
Yvonne T. Griffin
Tucker Griffin Barnes P.C.
Charlottesville, VA

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