18 is Not a Magic Number

Due to changes in the laws regarding privacy and such, a parent is no longer able to access health records, tuition bills, or any kind of private communication deemed to be for your “adult” son or daughter once they turn 18.

I am finding this hard to deal with. In early June, my second college bound child had his physical exam appointment for his college entrance. I assumed I would go. My husband assumed I wouldn’t. My son felt it was not necessary. I felt it was. He went alone. All is well. And, he signed a release that allows us to be a party to his medical records and conversations with his health care provider. Yet, the system dictated our actions on what I felt was a family decision.

This scenario was later repeated with his dentist this summer. Since my husband changed jobs in January, it necessitated some change in providers. So my 18-year-old is going to two new providers (as my whole family is) that does not know any history or has any personalization to his care except for what is in his chart – which isn’t much – as he has been healthy for the most part.  The dental records and care is part of a much longer story, but let’s suffice it to say that we all needed more information last fall, during a check up with his previous dentist. As parents of an 18-year-old, we weren’t informed of a “situation they were watching”. As the 18 year old, he was not informed  fully, either. Why? I do not really know. Maybe they did not know what they should tell him and what they shouldn’t. In either case, none of us were informed.

Still, it got me thinking. Eighteen is not a magic number. Yes, he just graduated from high school. Yes, he’s had a job for three years. Yes, he has a bank account, buys things, and pays bills. He uses Paypal and a debit card without trouble. He saves money.  In other words, he is responsible. In all honesty, he is much more mature than his age states and most of his peers.

But, he still lives in our house (for three more weeks anyway) and we still pay his medical bills and dental bills. As his mom, and as I tell him, his biggest fan – I love him huge amounts – I feel these privacy laws are a little ridiculous.

Again, the whole issue was revisited when we went to his chosen college for orientation. The difference here was that I was ready for it.  We have a son who went to college and graduated. We were introduced to the new mantra “parents do not get access to their student’s records, bills, accounts, etc…..unless the student grants a third-party access.” So, for four years I had access to my eldest son’s U-bill to pay his tuition, since he granted us access..  Not surprisingly, the situation was the same with my second student setting up his accounts for college. Mom and Dad need a third-party access to pay tuition.

You know, I understand. Truly, I do. Some  eighteen year olds are completely on their own. They finish high school (or not) and start jobs, or take loans, go to college, and survive without parental access, knowledge, input, or help. But, this isn’t true for all. I’m not begrudging paying medical or dental bills, and certainly not upset about paying tuition. We have insurance and saved for their college days. We set a budget for them.  Both of our students chose wisely, staying within the budget. They know the value of a dollar, the value of health, and the value of a good education. I am fairly sure neither one of them will accumulate a large amount of debt, from their education or otherwise.  We’ve tried to model responsible fiscal choices.

But, this doesn’t erase the irksomeness of being denied information about your child. I guess that is the moral of the story. At 18 years of age, society doesn’t consider them a child any longer.  It is an unfortunate paradox.  We can send them off to war or to defend our way of life at 18, but they cannot have a drink. We are paying for college, but cannot see the bill without permission. They remain on the family medical and dental insurance plans, but we have no access or say in their care.  As a mom, it doesn’t make sense. No, I definitely feel that eighteen is not a magic number. Do you think it is?  Share your thoughts with me in the comment section below.

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