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Is HIPAA prohibiting vaccination questions?
27 Jan' 21

Is HIPAA prohibiting vaccination questions?

 

Is HIPAA prohibiting vaccination questions?

Do you ever wonder what's on the other side of that HIPAA paperwork you get at every doctor's appointment? Do you read it every time you get a chance? 
 
My guess is that few individuals care to read the form after more than two decades, and even fewer can claim to understand it. However, since 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has prohibited the publication of certain health information.
 
Does the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protect immunization records? 
 
HIPAA has been misunderstood and frequently covered in the press recently, which is amazing for a guideline that has been around for so long. Consider the following scenario: 
 
"Your query is a violation of my HIPAA rights," a member of Congress from Georgia said when asked if she'd been vaccinated against COVID-19. We don't have to share our medical records because of HIPAA protections.
 
It's not just athletes and congressmen who get HIPAA and vaccination status wrong. Fake mask exemption cards were sold online throughout the pandemic. For medical reasons, the owner of these cards is not required to wear a mask. Some false cards claim that the cardholder is not required to answer any inquiries concerning their medical condition due to HIPAA. 
 
Unfortunately, this like the previous examples, misunderstands what HIPAA covers and demands. 
 
HIPAA: Everything You Need to Know 
 
First and foremost, HIPAA's principal purpose is to assist people in keeping their healthcare insurance coverage if they change or leave their jobs. To transfer patient information, the Act supported the use of electronic records. It's worth remembering that moving data around electronically wasn't always easy.
 
The HIPAA privacy standards, on the other hand, are quite strict: they forbid anybody from disclosing your protected health information (PHI) without your permission. They have no bearing on whether or not you can or should respond to questions about your vaccination status or any other health concern. That isn't what HIPAA is for.
  • To be explicit, HIPAA defines "protected health information" as “
  • Information about a person's health that is not publicly available."  that is, medical information that includes information that identifies you, such as your name, address, or date of birth; 
  • Information about a physical or mental condition you have or have had in the past; 
  • A description of healthcare you have received.
  • Information on payments paid for the medical care you've received 
The privacy rule stipulates the following. Anyone who has access to your protected health information, such as healthcare professionals, insurers, or billing businesses, is required to follow certain rules. 
 
Protect health information from security threats by ensuring that it is kept confidential. 
E-ensure that workers are aware of the need of maintaining the confidentiality of PHI and that they are instructed on how to do so.
 
What about HIPAA and whether or not you've been vaccinated? 
 
As previously stated, HIPAA does not prohibit anyone from inquiring about your immunization status. There's also nothing in it that says you can't be asked for proof of vaccination by companies like restaurants, gyms, or movie theatres, or by your job. Finally, HIPAA privacy restrictions do not prevent you from responding to questions concerning vaccination status. 
 
It's entirely up to you whether or not you tell others whether or not you've been vaccinated (and regardless of whether you divulge this information, I hope the answer is yes). Of course, if you choose not to share that information with your employer, you would almost certainly be considered unvaccinated, which could result in legal action.
 
At the end of the picture 
 
When you are asked about your vaccination history, or any other question about your health by a friend, relative or perfect stranger, you may find it disrespectful, inquisitive or unpleasant. This isn't unlawful, however. And don't blame HIPAA if you choose not to reply.

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