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HIPAA privacy rule regarding mental health information may soon be lifted for gun database

September 11, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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A proposed rule to lift legal barriers related to a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy rule that prevents states from submitting mental health information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is now in the hands of the Office of Management and Budget. The proposed rule was submitted earlier this week by the HHS Office for Civil Rights, reports Health Data Management.

The background check system is utilized to prevent felons, individuals convicted of domestic abuse crimes, and those with serious mental illnesses from buying guns. However, it was reported by the Government Accountability Office in 2012 that very few states are actually submitting information regarding their citizens’ mental health. To be more specific, there were 17 states that had submitted less than 10 records of individuals who should be prohibited from purchasing/owning a gun due to mental health reasons. Some states have simply declined to submit information regarding mental health, citing prohibitions under HIPAA.

This proposed rule was one of the 23 executive actions proposed by President Obama in January in the wake of the Newtown tragedy.

Many medical groups are against the proposal, arguing that it invades privacy, creates additional stigma, and could potentially interfere with the patient-physician relationship.

I’m curious to see what you all think, please comment below, tweet @ap_bh_sbrys, or email me at sbrys@vendomegrp.com with your opinions of the proposal.

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Comments

A quick thought, Shannon:

The states that refuse to report under HIPAA are correct in their thinking. The issue of reporting is driven by perceptions/misperceptions about public safety--a political issue, not a medical one.

A very similar division of opinions on the issue of Assisted Outpatient Treatment also exists. Proponents cite concerns about violence, while opponents see privacy/individual rights as the key concern. Alison Knopf's piece about a recent study of AOT's effectiveness--for reference: http://bit.ly/1beAf6w

Shannon Brys