Everyone wants privacy and security in their daily life. The same can’t be more true for the medical field if you went to the doctor for an “embarrassing” reason; you may want this visit to stay just between you and your professional doctor. But what happens when your private event is no longer private?
This is breaking the law. According to rules set forth by the legal system, doctors are confined to doctor-patient confidentiality, meaning they can’t share private information to other entities or professionals without allowance from the patient themselves.
However, in certain circumstances in today’s world, businesses, professionals, and laboratories have failed their duties at keeping their patients’ information private and secure. Let’s see the details of these privacy rules, why it is vital during the Covid vaccination period, and what businesses think about this law.
What does HIPAA stand for? HIPAA stands for….
You may have heard of HIPAA before, but you’re not quite sure what it refers to or what it stands for. HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This law requires doctors, medical professionals, and laboratories to keep patient’s information private and secure without sharing it with other people. Unless authorized by the patient, medical information cannot be shared between two entities or two professionals.
Simply put, this act is a federal law that prevents health information from being disclosed without the patient’s knowledge or consent. The Department of Health and Human Services created the HIPAA Privacy rule to ensure HIPAA was followed by all professional entities, setting forth heavy fines if a business or corporation refused to follow the rules or was negligent in their care of personal files.
HIPAA Privacy Rule
The HIPAA Privacy Rule is a subset of the greater scope of HIPAA, enforcing the law that the use and disclosure of health information by entities is subject to the Privacy rule. These ‘covered entities’ must understand how private patient’s rights and health information should be treated before disclosing personal medical files.
Why is HIPAA important?
HIPAA is essential to patient safety and security while visiting a doctor. There are numerous reasons why this rule is necessary for today’s society, but the main points focus on privacy, confidentiality, access to healthcare information, and reduction in fraudulent companies and breaches in the security systems. Without HIPAA, your private information could be shared across servers, which could harm your mental health or future care.
For healthcare organizations, like hospitals and laboratories, HIPAA is an essential piece of their safeguarding to help them prevent anyone and everyone from accessing their patients’ private medical files. Organizations that are HIPAA Compliant must ensure they have the necessary framework to protect their patient’s information.
HIPAA and the Covid-19 vaccine
In this time of uncertainty, many people are confused with how their Covid-19 vaccine falls under the framework of the HIPAA scope and the privacy rule. There is confusion from businesses and professionals about how the HIPAA act can operate in modern times and protect it.
Many conservative companies have taken HIPAA as an ‘excuse’ to avoid having to wear masks in the workplace or simply disregard mask mandates due to a pre-existing health condition that prevents them from being able to wear a mask. Although certain people may not be fit enough to wear masks, such as some people with extreme autism, others use their medical files to get around a simple preventative method.
To avoid wearing a mask in public settings, conservatives have cited the federal HIPAA law as their right to refuse why they don’t need to wear a mask. Since you don’t have to disclose medical information without your consent, you can simply claim you have a medical reason preventing you from needing to wear a face covering.
In addition to those who refuse to wear masks, some people cite HIPAA as why they will not disclose their vaccination status to potential employers, friends, or flight company workers.
So, the real question is – does HIPAA prevent your boss from asking about your vaccination status in the upcoming weeks?
The answer may confuse you. The answer is no – HIPAA does not prevent anyone from asking you about specific health information. HIPAA applies to prevent companies from sharing patient files with the public, not individuals being curious about your status or asking a particular health question.
In addition, your employer is probably not covered by the HIPAA Compliance rule, meaning they do not have to follow ‘doctor-patient confidentiality in terms of asking you questions regarding your physical or mental health. A boss is allowed to ask you questions about your medical status under federal law. If you fail to answer your vaccination status, your boss has every legal right to take federal action.
Unfortunately, for the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers, this is not the answer they were looking for. Previously, they thought HIPAA prevented them from disclosing medical information to their boss due to the privacy rule. However, since the boss is usually not covered under the Compliance rule and has a right to ask about potential or current employees, you must answer the question – or face the consequences.
In most cases, an employer can impose consequences, whether firing, suspension, or reduced hours, for an employee who refuses to answer whether or not they are vaccinated against Covid-19.
Therefore, this means that you can share your vaccination status if you choose to, but if you choose not to, it is not legally covered under a law that protects your privacy. Although you may not want to tell your boss about your vaccination status for whatever reason, they then have a legal right to fire you – so choose wisely.
There are many confusing facts that people and businesses must understand to correctly follow the rules when it comes to HIPAA. Companies must be HIPAA compliant when it comes to safeguarding patient information and preventing the spread of patient files to the public, along with allowing patients access to their medical records.
People need to know that they have every right to their medical files and can refuse to disclose medical information to people if asked. However, in the Covid-19 vaccine and employment case, bosses can ask employees, or future employees, about their vaccination status to keep themselves and their workers healthy.
In this case, it comes down to your personal preference. If you choose to disclose your vaccination status, you have a higher likelihood of keeping your job. If you decide to refuse, your boss has every legal right to take disciplinary consequences. Unfortunately for those who don’t want to get the vaccination, HIPAA does not protect your right from answering this question.