The HIPAA laws are real and they do something important. The misinterpretation of what it’s all about just adds to this firestorm of anti-vaccine sentiment. — Tara Kirk Sell, an assistant professor of health security at Johns Hopkins’s Bloomberg School of Public Health
The HIPAA laws are real and they do something important. The misinterpretation of what it’s all about just adds to this firestorm of anti-vaccine sentiment. — Tara Kirk Sell, an assistant professor of health security at Johns Hopkins’s Bloomberg School of Public Health
How the HIPAA Law Works and Why People Get It Wrong
The measure prohibits health professionals from revealing your medical records, but it is perfectly legal to ask whether someone has been vaccinated.

As September beckons people back to the office and the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads rapidly across the country, workplaces are navigating a range of challenges, including whether to require employees to be vaccinated or to reimpose mask mandates.

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

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, governs the privacy of a patient’s health records, but it is legal to ask Ms. Greene about her medical history. Still, her assertion reflects a misperception that has spread across social media and fringe sites as online misinformation and misstatements about vaccines help fuel a resistance to being inoculated.

... The law applies only to companies and professionals in the health care field, although some people may incorrectly imply otherwise, as Ms. Greene did in suggesting that the measure offered Fifth Amendment-like protection against revealing personal health information.

HIPAA is extremely “narrow,” said I. Glenn Cohen, an expert on bioethics and health law with the Harvard School of Law. “Whenever anyone says to you ‘HIPAA prohibits that,’ ask them to point to the portion of the statute or regulation that prohibits it. They often won’t be able to do so.”

Moreover, nothing in the law prohibits asking about someone’s health, be it vaccination status or proof that such information is accurate.

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

Ms. Greene has previously spread misinformation about HIPAA and about vaccines. Twitter suspended her account this week after she asserted that Covid-19 was not dangerous to young, healthy people — a claim that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has disproved.

“The HIPAA laws are real and they do something important,” Ms. Sell said. “The misinterpretation of what it’s all about just adds to this firestorm of anti-vaccine sentiment.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/article/hipaa-law.html