ANN ARBOR, Mich. — When your child has a medical emergency, getting information from a doctor usually isn’t a problem. But if your child is 18 or older, it’s not that simple.
The often talked about but also often misunderstood Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, more commonly known HIPPA, prevents doctors from discussing anyone’s medical condition if the patient is 18 or older, even with their parents.
And for a Highland Park family that obstacle lead to some scary moments.
The year was 2011. Joey Warsh was 18-years-old and just started his freshman year at the University of Michigan. Everything seem to be going well until his parents got a call from his roommate. Joey Warsh was curled up in a ball in excruciating pain and having trouble breathing.
His mother Sheri Warsh did everything she could to find out what was happening to her son.
“I was devastated. I got this phone call at 5 a.m. We live five hours away from his school,” she said. “When I called the ER to get information, they would not give me any information because my son was 18 years old. (They said) ‘I’m sorry we cannot give you information unless you have power of attorney for health care.’”
Joey Warsh’s grandparents were able to get to the hospital and into his room about 45 minutes later where they found out his illness was stress related. While they didn’t need to go to the hospital themselves, the stress of not knowing it’s still fresh in the minds of his parents.
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“I want to make sure no one has to go through what my husband and I went through,” Sheri Warsh said.
Sheri Warsh is an attorney herself and has now made it her mission to help parents of college age kids understand the importance of a medical power of attorney. She has written articles and speaks on the subject and encourages parents to get it done before something goes wrong.
“I think once they hear my story, there is no convincing,” she said. “People want to make sure they have it for they child before they leave for school.”
She says it’s a pretty simple but it important process.
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“It shouldn’t cost very much money should be an hour an of attorney time to do the form and meet with the child to go through it,” she said.
There are forms online for parents who don’t want to go through an attorney. A HIPPA release is needed for access to medical records and conditions.
Joey Warsh recovered and is doing well. He is married and working in New York City.
“Looking back on it, it is scary to know they were trying to check on me (and) understand what was happening (and) they didn’t have access,” he said.
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