It is becoming more and more common for Colorado health care facilities, including nursing homes, hospitals and mental health care providers, to deny patients or their family members access to medical records. These providers often tell the patient or their family members that disclosure of the records is not allowed under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”).
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HIPAA is a rather lengthy and somewhat complicated set of laws nominally designed to protect private medical records. Because of its complexity, many people and institutions simply do not understand HIPAA, and often misapply it.
In reality, HIPAA does not allow, in most instances, a healthcare provider to withhold your medical records from you. HIPAA also does not allow a medical health provider to withhold the medical records of a deceased patient from his or her “next of kin.” Under Colorado law, next of kin is defined as the deceased person’s heirs at law, which would include the parents and children of the decedent. Thus, if your mother dies in a nursing home, you, as both next of kin and heir at law, are entitled to request copies of your mother’s medical records. This is true even if you are not the power of attorney or the personal representative of your mother’s estate.
We have found that hospitals, in particular, seem to believe that HIPAA requires that an estate be opened and a personal representative be appointed in order for a deceased person’s medical records to be released. That is simply not true.
If you are having problems obtaining medical records from a Colorado nursing home, hospital or other health care facility, please don’t hesitate to call us for a free consultation.