As individuals decide whether or not to receive COVID-19 vaccines, some social media posts claim HIPAA prevents an employer from asking questions about an employee’s immunization status. We answer frequently asked questions about HIPAA and its relationship to vaccine surveys.
What is HIPAA and why was it created?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, is federal law created to streamline inefficiencies in the health care industry. The law aimed to give patients and providers easier access to health care information.
Congress first passed HIPAA under the Clinton administration in the 1990s, and it came into effect in 2003. The four stated objectives of HIPAA are:
- Provide the ability to transfer and maintain health insurance coverage to millions of American workers and their families when they change or lose their jobs;
- Reduce healthcare fraud and abuse;
- Mandate industry-wide standards for healthcare information on electronic billing and other processes; and
- Require the protection and confidential treatment of protected health information
Is everyone covered by the HIPAA security rule?
No, HIPAA applies only to covered entities and not to everyone who uses or sees health information. HIPAA Covered Entities are defined as health plans, health care providers and health care clearinghouses.
Does HIPAA Safety Law Protect Individuals From Disclosing Their Immunization Status To Employers?
Immunization records are part of HIPAA Personal Health Information (PHI); however, security rules only apply to entities covered by HIPAA, not individuals.
Employers are not covered entities, so they are allowed to ask their employees for proof of vaccination. It would only be a violation of HIPAA if the employer asked the employee’s health care provider to disclose his vaccination record without the employee’s consent.
Are you protected against a company asking you for proof of vaccination thanks to the HIPAA security rule?
Companies are allowed to request customers to provide proof of vaccination, however, it is difficult for companies to refuse service due to vaccination status due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Instead, companies can require customers who refuse to disclose immunization information to wear masks or accept outside deliveries. If customers refuse to compromise with companies, companies can refuse services for health and safety reasons.
Does the HIPAA Safety Rule Protect You from Disclosure of Immunization Status to Healthcare Providers?
Healthcare providers are permitted to both request the patient’s immunization status and disclose it to other covered entities for treatment, payment, or healthcare transactions. patient authorization is not required to share immunization status information for public health activities, depending on the HIPAA Journal.
Public health activities include public health surveillance to report and prevent disease.
Can my employer ask me for my vaccination status? What can happen if I refuse?
While employees are not required to provide their immunization status to their employer, they are not protected from the consequences of not providing the information. The consequences of refusing to be vaccinated are vast and ambiguous, but a recent court ruling highlights the possible consequences.
In Houston, a federal judge sided with a hospital that fired employees who refused to be vaccinated.
Currently, people are only exempt from employee-imposed vaccination requirements for medical and / or religious reasons.
However, as the availability of COVID vaccines increases, many states are considering legislating to prevent employers from mandating vaccinations and to protect employees who refuse vaccinations.
Is North Carolina creating legislation that prevents employers from requesting vaccination cards?
North Carolina’s Occupational Safety and Health Act exempts employees from being vaccinated for religious reasons.
Republican lawmakers have proposed a state bill to protect those who chose not to be vaccinated, but he did not survive this session’s crossover.
Can HIPAA save you from having to get a vaccination passport?
Vaccine passports are becoming an increasingly common method for countries to regulate who travels within the country.
However, HIPAA laws affect vaccination passports in the same way. affects other evidence of vaccination. HIPAA only protects covered entities that can apply for a vaccination passport and not companies that are not covered entities.