Know When to Disclose Your Health Information

By | January 23, 2012

Of all of the information that forms our daily lives – passwords, combination codes, addresses – there is perhaps nothing so confidential and sacred than that of health care information. We have a right to confidentiality with our doctors that is so ironclad that we often have to sign waivers and other similar documents just to release this information to the outside world.

Most of the time, we have no reason to contemplate this course of action. But there are times in our lives when this information can be critical to helping our doctors and family take care of us. The trick is knowing when. So here are some times when you might want to consider disclosing your health information.

Acquiring Health Insurance

When switching health insurance or even acquiring it for yourself for the first time, it will be necessary to tell that insurer about your medical history in order to receive an appropriate premium package. This still comes with a great degree of confidentiality; even your employers will often not know about your medical history.

Signing an authorization for your health insurer to find out your medical history might sometimes be part of this process; if that’s the case, you’ll have to weigh the risks and benefits to make sure this is the right thing to do. You also need to be sure that you’re working with a reputable health insurance provider.

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Giving Information to an Employer

When an employer is considering a health insurance plan, it may need to collect some medical information from employees in order to find an estimate as to the costs of each potential plan. Each company generally handles this in a different way, but you may have to disclose some of your medical information in this case. Many employers will make the process confidential so that you don’t have to run around the office telling everyone about your particular ailments, but even so: be sure that you’re careful about your information and that you keep true to your instinct to preserve confidential information.

Be especially wary of people who claim to be would-be employers asking for your medical information; they have no right to ask you to reveal that kind of confidential information, and you don’t have to give it to them.

Anticipating Future Circumstances

Using the right legal forms to prepare for the future can do a lot of good in the worst possible times. If you were in a car accident, for example, and are incapacitated in some way, you need to have the forms in place that authorize your attorney or family to release medical information.

In these cases, you can anticipate that the people who need you to disclose your medical information will be doctors; in other words, the exact type of people you want to have that information. So make sure that you have the paperwork set up through documents like a living will and power of attorney that authorize the proper procedures when you’re unable to make these decisions for yourself.