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Are you an adult at 13 or a child at 26?


imagesI am thoroughly dumbstruck. I was just informed by our mail-order prescription drug company that I do not have the rights, under newly amended HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) laws to manage my 13 year old son’s prescriptions. This information was dumped on me after two hours of tech support idiocy as I attempted to set up an on-line account to streamline the process of ordering prescription refills for my family. Please note the irony here.

After finally being told that it would take 3 to 5 more business days to get the online account up and working, I decided to end the call before I dismantled the phone and furiously ingested its portable batteries. Then I remembered one more thing. I said,
“Well, can you at least tell me how to connect my son’s account with mine so that I can manage his prescription refills?”

“That depends,” the heavily accented voice on the other end of the phone stated.

“On…?” I took the bait.

“On how old he is,” she answered

“He just turned 13.”
“Oh, well then no. You cannot manage his account without his direct written permission.”

“But he doesn’t have an account. He’s 13.”

“Well, he will have to set up his own account and then he can order his own prescriptions.”

“But he doesn’t have a credit card. He has no way to pay for them. Wait a minute, is this a gag? You’re just joking with me because I sound like I’m about to lose it, right?”

“No ma’am. Once a child is 13, the new HIPAA laws require the child to give written permission to a parental caregiver to have access to any of their prescription drug information.”

“That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Who made that law? Seriously. I really want to know. Because it obviously wasn’t someone with a 13 year old child. Because my kid is a great kid. He’s responsible, practical, thoughtful. But, I can pretty much guarantee that left to his own devices, the last thing he’s gonna be focused on is ordering his allergy meds on a monthly basis.”

“Well, if he chooses to set up his own account and grants caregiver access to you then you will be allowed to order his medications.”

At this point, I excused myself and hung up, knowing that no good could come from my continued attempts to reason with the ridiculous automaton voice on the other end.

Let me be clear here. My 13 year old son requires my assistance to oversee and manage his pharmaceutical needs. And there’s no way I’m going to allow him (or his brother in 3 years) to do it themselves. Call me a helicopter parent, but setting 13 year old kids free to access their own stash of pharmaceuticals sounds like a pretty big recipe for large scale disaster. Am I missing something here?

So back off HIPAA. I’m the sheriff in this town. My kid takes the meds I buy him based on his doctor’s recommendation and I am not about to let a 13 year old boy make his own health care decisions without my express consent and input.

I just have one question. The new Obamacare laws allow kids to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they reach 26, even if they’re married and not living at home. HIPAA insists that 13 year old minors manage their meds on their own. So which is it, are we raising 13 year old adults or 26 year old children?

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About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Seattle, WA with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

5 responses to “Are you an adult at 13 or a child at 26?

  1. love it Debra! That is ideocracy at its finest!

  2. Idiotocrocy at its finest!

  3. Glenn Netzel ⋅

    I found this post while doing a search for “HIPAA and Obamacare.” Not what I intended, but I enjoyed the post!

    Although HIPAA does attempt to protect the privacy of health data from minors/adolescents, the actual age at which the kid’s consent is required for the parent to view the data is not a function of federal law. That was left to the individual states to mandate, so perhaps Arizona (or the home state of your Rx provider) is to blame. I agree it’s a totally ridiculous result in your case. But why didn’t you just set up your kids’ online accounts yourself? The Rx provider has no idea it’s really you.

    And I can’t tell if you’re attempting to make a political link from the perplexing/inane HIPAA rules being imposed on you to the feature of the Affordable Care Act that permits kids up to the age of 26 to stay on their parents’ policies. They have nothing to do with each other, although your ironic point about “13 year olds as adults vs. 26 year-old children” is a good one. The ACA provision was designed to safeguard against the all-too-common situation of over-21 children graduating from college, unable to find a job right away, and being uninsured. Yes – they can be added to the parents’ policies for a while even though they may be married, not depend on the parents for financial support – but this makes the test so much simpler. Do you really want the insurance companies inquiring into the level of support the parents provide? This way all you need to prove is the kid’s age, period.

    Finally, there is an increased level of scrutiny and compliance requirements in HIPAA in 2013. The primary catalyst for these heightened rules is the many instances of data security breaches in the data centers of companies holding private patient data. You and I would probably agree that what you went through with your Rx provider is a gross over-reaction, but at least you should know what led to it.

    • Erynn ⋅

      Glenn, sounds like you might have the victim mentality. Why are you enlisting the government to force insurance companies to insure your adult child? Dont get angry at the insurance company and blame them because a twenty something individual who happens to be a college graduate cant secure employment but they can afford to get married and have babies?. Why is the government mandating health privacy laws for a 13 year old? Great post. I agree with you, Debra.

  4. Erynn ⋅

    Glenn, sounds like you might have the victim mentality. Why are you enlisting the government to force insurance companies to insure your adult child? Dont get angry at the insurance company and blame them because a twenty something individual who happens to be a college graduate cant secure employment but they can afford to get married and have babies? Why is the government mandating health privacy laws for a 13 year old? Great post. I agree with you, Debra.

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