How does the HIPAA law work and why do people misunderstand it?

as of September calls people back to the office and The highly contagious Delta version of the coronavirus spreads rapidly across the countryWorkplaces are facing a number of challenges, including requiring employees to be vaccinated or re-enacting mask mandates.

Some, including Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia, are opposing those calls, as she falsely claimed this week that disclosing vaccination status was “a violation of my HIPAA rights,” a federal regulation that protects confidential health information. does.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, regulates the confidentiality of a patient’s health records, but it is legal to ask Ms. Green about her medical history. Still, his claim reflects a misconception that has spread on social media and fringe sites as online misinformation and misinformation about vaccines helps promote resistance to vaccination.

Here’s a look at what privacy protections HIPAA provides and why it’s so often misinterpreted.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed HIPAA into law, which is a comprehensive piece of health and privacy law Which helped to update and regulate the way health insurance is sold and how personal medical information is stored in the form of electronic processing.

an aspect of the law, privacy rules, makes it illegal for certain people and organizations, including health care providers, insurers, clearing houses, that store and manage health data and their business associates, to share patient medical records without the patient’s explicit consent. Those parties handle the patient’s health records on a daily basis.

No. The law only applies to companies and professionals in the health care sector, although some may incorrectly indicate otherwise, as Ms. Greene suggested, that measures like the Fifth Amendment against disclosing personal health information. Provides security.

HIPAA is extremely “narrow,” said I. Glenn Cohen, a specialist in bioethics and health law at the Harvard School of Law. “Whenever someone tells you ‘HIPAA prohibits this,’ ask them to indicate the part of the statute or regulation that prohibits it. They often won’t be able to do that.”

In addition, nothing in the law prohibits asking about one’s health, whether it is vaccination status or proof that such information is accurate.

Despite this, some people have resorted to the law on the pretext of diverting attention from such questions.

In July, North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson falsely claimed on Facebook that President Biden’s door-to-door campaign To encourage vaccination and to ask whether residents were vaccinated were “illegal” under HIPAA.

But the law does not apply to employers, retail stores or journalists other than those of other parties. No federal law prohibits companies from requiring their employees to be vaccinated, However, there are some exceptions If you are disabled or have a sincere religious belief.

Nor does it mean that you have to tell if you have been vaccinated. It is at your discretion to disclose this.

Long before social media and fringe news sites Dissemination of harmful health misinformation, such as whether masks work (they do) or will the coronavirus vaccine change your DNA (This will not happen), HIPAA and its use as a tempting excuse for privacy have often given themselves to misinterpretation.

“I often joke that even though it is five-letter, HIPAA is considered a four-letter word,” Mr. Cohen said. He said, physicians often use it as a reason “to do something they don’t want to do, such as providing some information to the patient – perhaps believing it but being wrong – ‘well, this one would be a HIPAA violation.'”

But experts say politicians and public figures do more harm in perpetuating false claims, leading to misunderstandings about HIPAA and vaccine skepticism. to flourish.

“This rumor may not be particularly harmful in itself, but it is part of a narrative that is harmful,” said Tara Kirk Saleassistant professor of health security at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It’s especially a problem when an information is null and in this case, it’s that people don’t know what HIPAA is.”

Ms. Green has previously spread misinformation about HIPAA and vaccines. Twitter suspended his account Later this week it claimed that COVID-19 was not dangerous to young, healthy people – a claim that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has denied.

“HIPAA laws are real and they do something important,” Ms Sail said. “The misinterpretation of it just adds to this firestorm of anti-vaccine sentiment.”

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