At the time HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, was enacted, it was claimed that it would protect the privacy of people’s identifiable health information. Since then it has been left alone with only minor changes. However on Jan 4, 2016, the Federal Government at the direction of President Obama modified HIPAA to allow health care works to report suspected individuals with mental problems to NICS (The National Instant Criminal Background Check System).
Since then I have been trying to find out what exactly this means. Recently I received the following information from a friend. This is a summary of an article published in Clinical Psychiatry News. The article has since been taken down from the internet along with several other articles that addressed this subject.
“Subject: Gun safety: HIPAA change allows providers to report on some mentally ill patients : Clinical Psychiatry News
This was already in the works several years ago, and we all assumed that any community clinic or hospital which was a recipient of federal funds would eventually be required to report this type of information. What I didn’t see explained in my admittedly quick scan was a clear explanation of who will be allowed (required) to report. Based on the language in the article, it will be down to the level of Clinical Social Workers and Psychologists (masters degree level). A big focus will be white males over age 60 due to their suicide rate; another will be males with history of depression, especially with substance abuse issues (which for alcohol is now defined as more than two drinks per night irrespective of the amount of time between the drinks – we metabolize about an ounce of alcohol per hour) or domestic issues, and not necessarily domestic violence.
The NICS doesn’t capture potential violent offenders in its data base because that was never its purpose and it wasn’t designed to do so. Most of the non-terrorist mass shooters are young paranoid schizophrenics; unless they’ve been adjudicated as mentally ill (involuntary commitment, usually) they’re not prohibited from owning guns. This effort is pure politics with too many loop holes to be of any use, except as a future excuse to say “we didn’t go far enough”. But it will end up breaching the trust within the healthcare relationship of many patients”.
Besides the information that was sent to me, I found two other articles published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services , and Modern Healthcare that are of some interest. There are other articles written in different health care publication, but they are as clear as mud.
As of yet there seems to be a lot of confusion on exactly what needs to be reported and how it will affect your right to own a firearm. For now just be careful what you say until the new HIPAA rules becomes clear.