The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in the administration of President Bill Clinton. Its privacy standard prohibits certain “covered entities” from disclosing your medical information. The Privacy Rule also includes requirements for you to know and control how your health information is used.
The Privacy Rule’s main goal is to ensure that your health data is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information required to provide and promote high-quality healthcare. In addition, it aims to protect the public’s health and well-being. The Privacy Rule allows for the use of important information while protecting the privacy of people seeking care and healing.
Compliance with HIPAA regulations is critical for any physician’s office. Failure to comply can result in extremely high fines ranging from $100 to more than $4 million.
Compliance with HIPAA, on the other hand, is not without difficulty. You must get familiarized with the HIPAA compliance manual. Also, regulations are constantly changing, so you must stay up to date at all times to avoid accidentally accruing millions in fines.
Who is Subject to the Privacy Rule
All individuals and organizations subject to the privacy rule are also considered covered entities.
HIPAA requires those who have access to your PHI to keep it confidential and secure from security threats. These entities must ensure that their employees are trained in maintaining information confidentiality.
Below is the list of parties that are subject to the privacy rule.
- Health Plan
- Health Care Clearinghouse
- Health Care Providers who carry out certain financial and administrative electronic.
These entities are subject to privacy standards. Even if they contract with others to perform some of their key functions.
HIPAA and Proof of Vaccination Status
People generally believe that HIPAA protects all health information at any time and for any purpose, regardless of who is involved. And that is completely false.
The Privacy Rule makes no restrictions on covered entities and business associates’ ability to request information from patients or visitors. The Privacy Rule, however, governs how and when covered entities and business associates may use and share protected health information.
Vaccination information is considered PHI and is subject to the HIPAA Rules. But then, HIPAA only applies to HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates.
If an employer requires an employee to provide proof of vaccination in order to allow that employee to work without wearing a facemask, this is not a HIPAA violation because HIPAA does not apply to the majority of employers.
It is not a HIPAA violation for an employer to request proof of vaccination from an employee’s healthcare provider. However, unless the employee has provided authorization, it would be a HIPAA violation for the employee’s healthcare provider to disclose that information to the employer.
In a case where an employer has their own vaccination program and you choose to have your vaccine privately, you may be required to authorize your healthcare provider to disclose certain information about your vaccine to your employer as proof of vaccination.
While inquiring about vaccine status would not violate HIPAA, it is possible that other laws would be broken. For example, requiring employees to disclose additional health information, such as the reason for their lack of vaccination, may violate federal laws.
Also, requiring employees to disclose additional health information, such as the reason for their lack of vaccination, may violate federal laws.
Can Your Healthcare Provider Disclose Your Vaccine Status?
Healthcare providers may inquire about a patient’s vaccination status because doing so does not violate HIPAA. The healthcare provider could also share vaccine status information with another covered entity or business associate.
However, this is only if the disclosure was permitted under the HIPAA Privacy Rule for treatment, payment, or healthcare operations. It also applies if the patient authorized it. When sharing vaccine status information for public health activities, no authorizations would be required.
A disclosure, for example, would be permitted to a public health authority authorized by law to collect or receive such information. This will be done in order to prevent or control disease, injury, or disability.
Can Your Employer Request Your Vaccination Status?
In general, the Privacy Rule does not govern what information employers may request from you as part of the terms and conditions of employment that they may impose. Notwithstanding, other federal or state laws address employment terms and conditions.
Given the risk that diseases pose to the workforce, employers are within their rights to require vaccinations. Employers may also request proof of vaccination from employees.
However, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that documentation or other proof of vaccination be kept confidential and kept separate from the employee’s personnel files
An employee can refuse to inform their employer if they have been vaccinated, but withholding that information is likely to be interpreted as the individual not being vaccinated. Failure to be vaccinated or refusing to answer will almost certainly result in disciplinary action, which could lead to dismissal.
In some cases, everyone cannot be vaccinated. Medical exemptions exist when vaccination is not possible due to pre-existing medical conditions. Employers cannot mandate employees with medical exemptions to be vaccinated as a condition of employment. Rather, they must make reasonable adjustments for such persons.
Individuals may be allowed to avoid vaccination on religious grounds in some states, but not all. Nevertheless, only a few religions forbid vaccination in the United States.
HIPAA privacy rules prohibit others from disclosing protected health information, or PHI, without your permission. However, HIPAA does not forbid anyone from inquiring about your vaccination status. There is nothing in it that prevents businesses or your employer from requesting proof of vaccination.
HIPAA privacy rules also do not prohibit you from answering questions about vaccination status. It is entirely up to you whether or not to inform others about your vaccination status. If you refuse to provide your vaccination details to your employer when requested, chances are that you will be considered unvaccinated. This could result in changes at work or even job loss.
But, once again, this has nothing to do with HIPAA. They have nothing to do with whether or not you can or should respond to questions about your vaccination status or any other health concern.
TIME BUSINESS NEWS