HIPAA Doesn’t Ban Questions About Your Vaccination Status

Think About It! Who Has The Right To Question Whether You’ve Been Vaccinated?

Kindergarteners, tourists on exotic holidays, healthcare professionals, and Ellis Island immigrants all have something in common.

The majority of them had to show that they would not accidentally transfer potentially fatal diseases to others. They couldn’t start school, fly, work in a hospital, or start a new life in America if they didn’t have these documents.

So, why has the COVID-19 vaccination become a hotspot for controversy about “vaccine passports,” medical privacy concerns, and individual rights violations?

Institutions rarely have the authority to compel that you to be vaccinated. Still, if you want to work somewhere specific or have others supply you with services (such as schools, companies, or travel), they may have the authority to ask for proof of vaccination.

Vaccination – Lets Take A Look At The Smallpox Legacy

The 1918 influenza pandemic has received a lot of attention because of its resemblance to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ability of masking and reduced public meetings to “flatten the curve” of cases. After examining the effectiveness of preventative actions in 1918 and 1919, Markel coined the word.

However, Markel claims that the history of smallpox is a better analog for vaccine privacy. Before it was eliminated in the late 1970s, that illness tormented humanity for thousands of years, killing one in every three persons who contracted it.

Unlike the past mandated smallpox vaccine requirements, no one is claiming that all Americans must get vaccinated against COVID-19.

In 1905, the Supreme Court upheld the jurisdiction of health authorities to enforce smallpox immunization.

Fine, What Has HIPAA Got To Do With Vaccination Status?

While some people may be hesitant to disclose their vaccination status, no legislation prohibits companies, employers, or anyone from asking.

As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to loosen safety restrictions for persons who have been completely vaccinated against the coronavirus as the country reopens, many companies, companies, families, and friend groups are finding themselves in the awkward situation of having to inquire about others’ vaccination statuses.

The use of HIPAA as a justification for avoiding disclosing vaccination status is frequently an “impulsive reaction” that “soon gets converted into a statement that seems like law.”

HIPAA, also known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and the Privacy Rule that followed it include safeguards to prevent a person’s identifiable health information from being disclosed without their knowledge or agreement.

However, the legislation only applies to certain health-related businesses, such as insurance companies, healthcare clearinghouses, healthcare providers, and business connections.

That implies that if a friend, favorite restaurant, or grocery shop shared confidential health information with you, they would not be in violation of HIPAA since they aren’t “covered entities.” However, other federal and state privacy regulations may force employers and schools to secure your personal information.

No, HIPAA Doesn’t Apply To Employers, Businesses Asking For Vaccination Status

It’s one of the biggest questions about the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Who is and isn’t allowed to ask if you’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine?

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, stops healthcare providers from accessing your medical information without your explicit permission.

But does it stop your employer? Your employer is not a covered entity, and therefore HIPAA would not apply. That means that your employer can ask if you’ve been vaccinated, and they can require you to get it.

But what about private businesses?

Nothing about HIPAA prevents a business from asking if you’ve been vaccinated or even denying you entry if you refuse to answer.

One potential legal gray area is an employer asking why someone hasn’t been vaccinated. More than 40 states across the nation have introduced legislation to ban mandates that require getting the vaccine.    

According to experts, companies, airlines, companies, schools, and even those protected by HIPAA are forbidden from requiring you to divulge your vaccination status or produce your vaccine record card in very few, if any, cases under federal rules. If your health care professional revealed your vaccination status with someone who requested without your agreement, it would be a violation of HIPAA.

A doctor is not permitted nor allowed to divulge that medical information without my patient’s permission under HIPAA.

Employers are also permitted by law to inquire about or demand proof of immunization from their workers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which oversees federal anti-discrimination rules in the workplace, said in a December advisory that “there is no indication that the employer asking this question would be violating any federal law.” If an employer’s efforts to find out why a worker didn’t get vaccinated elicits information regarding a disability, it might be a violation.

Other Examples Of “Vaccination Proof” Requirements

So, if your buddy posts on social media about vaccinated against COVID-19, and you tell someone else that you saw it,  it is not in violation of HIPAA since you weren’t protected by it. Your buddy may dislike you, but you are not breaking the law.

It would be a HIPAA violation if the nurse who gave your friend an injection snapped a photograph of her and put it on personal social media account without your friend’s written authorization. On the other hand, nurses are taught how to follow the law, and if they do, they and their employers face fines and public scrutiny. Hospitals that require patients to be tested for COVID-19 before receiving further treatments are another example. They can proceed if the patient does not have COVID-19. If they do, and the therapy they want isn’t life-threatening, physicians may opt to wait. If a patient refuses to get tested in the first place, they are very certainly infected.

The Misuse Of HIPAA

HIPAA is one of the country’s most misunderstood healthcare legislation. Only a few individuals truly get what it means. They believe it provides full health information privacy safeguards in all instances, whereas it does not.

HIPAA only applies to specific types of businesses, such as your doctor, hospital, or other healthcare providers. It does not apply to the normal individual or a company that is not in the healthcare industry. In addition, it does not provide personal protection from having to divulge personal health information

A person cannot simply assert that they have a HIPAA “right” to enter a company or an enclosed place without wearing a mask.

If a public health order in that state, county, or city requires mask-wearing indoors, companies have the right and legal responsibility to do so, and they might be punished if they don’t.

Is It Necessary For Me To Respond?

No, you have the option of not disclosing your immunization status. However, if you choose not to reveal, experts say there will almost certainly be consequences.

Private enterprises that serve the public are not prohibited by federal law from requiring personnel and customers to get vaccinated.

While they can’t reject service because of color or gender, there’s no regulation that says “companies can’t discriminate based on your COVID-19 vaccination status during the epidemic.”      

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