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Will Gun Control Policies Affect Patient Privacy?

Last year was a tragic time for gun violence in the United States, with 372 mass shootings in the United States in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870, according to a report by BBC News.

For good reason, many are looking for ways to keep Americans safe. But some gun control policies could come at the expense of patient privacy rights, says Twila Brase, president and cofounder of Citizens' Council for Health Freedom (CCHF), a patient-centered national health freedom organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota, existing to protect health care choices, individualized patient care, and medical and genetic privacy rights.

Brase recently discussed President Obama's gun control efforts and their link to the HIPAA "Privacy" Rule—which doesn't ensure patients' privacy at all—during CCHF's daily, 60-second Health Freedom Minute radio feature. (Also visit CCHF's Web page dedicated to HIPAA.) Heard on 367 stations nationwide, including 200 on the American Family Radio Network and 100 on the Bott Radio Network, Health Freedom Minute helps listeners learn more about the agenda behind health care initiatives, as well as steps they can take to protect their health care choices, rights and privacy.

"As part of Obama's crackdown on guns, the HIPAA privacy rule has been changed to allow certain individuals to be reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System," Brase says. "The new HIPAA rule grants certain clinics, hospitals, and data repositories permission to report a set of personal data to the database, including name, birth date, and a number that indicates the individual is subject to firearms prohibitions under the Federal Mental Health Prohibitor, a classification which is assigned for reasons such as involuntary commitment, incompetency, insanity, or being declared a danger to themselves and others."

HIPAA already allows certain reporting to law enforcement without patients' consent, but this reporting wasn't permissible under HIPAA. Now it is, Brase adds.

CCHF has long educated Americans that they are not required to sign the HIPAA form when it is passed across the counter at doctor's offices, hospitals, and clinics. In fact, CCHF says, signing—or not signing—the form does not protect privacy, as many think, but rather, gives 2.2 million entities access to patient data through HIPAA and HITECH. Furthermore, if patients refuse to sign the HIPAA "privacy" form, some clinics, doctors, or hospitals may incorrectly refuse to provide treatment, thereby putting them in violation of patients' HIPAA rights.

Source: Citizens Council for Health Freedom