Why Your Clients’ College-Age Children Need Health Care Directives
By Ryan K. Crayne and Serena O’Neil
As we head into the Great Wealth Transfer of $68 trillion being transitioned from older generations to younger generations, financial advisors have an opportunity to bridge generational gaps and seamlessly work with their clients’ families.
One way to begin financial planning conversations with the younger generations is for financial advisors to connect with their existing client base and encourage parents of college students to put health care documents in place for their children.
Having college students put their core health care documents in place is an excellent way to help protect them in an emergency, as well as to begin the broader conversation of managing their personal finances and health as young adults.
With winter break on the way, now is a great time to begin this conversation with your clients and encourage them to talk to their children about providing them with a health care directive, HIPAA authorization form, copies of all health-related insurance cards and an emergency contact plan.
Health Care Directive
A health care directive is a core estate planning document that financial advisors should encourage their clients and their college-age students to put in place. This document makes a college student’s wishes known to family members and doctors in the event that they are incapacitated and unable to communicate their decisions. They also can nominate a health care agent to make heath care decisions for them if they are incapacitated.
The value-add to clients is that they can make sure their college student is protected during an unexpected medical emergency and that the student will have their loved ones make decisions for them.
As soon as your clients’ children reach 18 years of age, the only way your clients can be provided health information and make decisions for their children in the event of a health crisis without a court order is if they are the named agent in their child’s health care directive.
When talking with young adults about a health care directive, it is important to highlight for them that they are in control of their own health care decisions as long as they can communicate them. Their health care directive is only “active” if they are incapacitated and are not able to communicate their own health care decisions.
Since every individual has their own values and goals for their health, and state laws vary across the country, there is no one size fits all approach for health care directives. It is vital to connect your clients with a trusted estate planning attorney who can make sure that the health care directives for their children are tailored to comply with the laws of the state in which the student is studying.
HIPAA Authorization Form
Part of enabling a named health care agent to be able to make health care decisions is making sure that your clients’ children have authorized one or more people, including their health care agent, to receive information about their health.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 protects individuals from the disclosure of their health care information without their consent. In the event of a health emergency, a HIPAA authorization form is needed for the college student’s medical information to be shared with their health care agent.
In some states, the HIPAA authorization form is incorporated within the health care directive. In other states, the HIPAA authorization form is a separate form in addition to the health care directive. Again, an estate planning attorney can tailor the HIPAA authorization form to comply with applicable federal and state law.
Health Insurance Cards
An easily overlooked part of planning for families with college students is reminding your clients to give their children copies of their health insurance cards.
By being proactive, families can avoid those last-minute texts for a copy of insurance cards in order for their child to be seen at a clinic. College students should keep an original or a copy of their health insurance cards in a safe place.
These include their medical, dental and vision insurance cards. Moreover, every January when new insurance cards are issued, college students need originals or a copies of those new cards.
An easy way to take this step to the next level is for college students to save photos of the front and back of their insurance cards in their phones. Many health institutions do not require that patients have a paper version of their health insurance cards and will accept digital copies emailed to their receptionist at check-in.
As you work with your clients’ children, an extra step to take is to remind them to provide emergency contact information to their universities, coaches, study abroad advisors and residence hall advisors. In case of an emergency, this will help ensure that the student’s emergency contacts are notified of health emergencies quickly.
Financial advisors are in a unique position to learn about their clients’ families and be a resource for both their clients and their children. By talking to your clients about making sure that their children over the age of 18 have health care documents in place, financial advisors can deepen their relationships with their clients’ families and demonstrate thoughtful, proactive planning beyond just the numbers.
Moreover, discussing health care documents is an excellent gateway to introducing young adults to financial planning, including basic investing and retirement planning, and getting core estate planning documents — such as wills and power of attorneys — in place.