After the up to date CDC masks steering for folks absolutely vaccinated in opposition to COVID-19, some puzzled if companies can legally ask prospects in the event that they’ve been vaccinated.

The Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC) on Might 13 updated its guidance regarding mask-wearing for people who find themselves absolutely vaccinated in opposition to COVID-19. Underneath the steering, people who find themselves absolutely vaccinated, which means they’re two weeks faraway from receiving their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or two weeks faraway from their first shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, don’t need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except it’s required by a federal, state or native regulation. Individuals who aren’t absolutely vaccinated ought to nonetheless put on a masks and bodily distance, in response to CDC steering.

As folks discovered in regards to the CDC’s new advisory, some folks puzzled if companies may start asking prospects in the event that they’re vaccinated. Some folks claimed that would be a violation of the Well being Insurance coverage Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, extra generally often known as HIPAA.

THE QUESTION

Is a enterprise asking a buyer about their vaccination standing a violation of HIPAA?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, most companies wouldn’t violate HIPAA by asking a couple of buyer’s vaccination standing.

WHAT WE FOUND

The CDC says HIPAA is a federal law “that required the creation of nationwide requirements to guard delicate affected person well being data from being disclosed with out the affected person’s consent or data.”

One of many guidelines created to guard folks’s well being data is the privateness rule, which units requirements for the use and disclosure of individuals’s protected well being data. The privateness rule applies to what are known as “coated entities.”

There are three different categories of coated entities, in response to the U.S. Division of Well being and Human Companies (HHS). One group is well being care suppliers, together with docs, clinics and pharmacies, that electronically transmit well being data in reference to sure transactions, comparable to claims or profit eligibility inquiries. The second class is well being plans, which embody medical health insurance firms and authorities applications that pay for well being care, comparable to Medicare and Medicaid. The third is well being care clearinghouses, which HHS says contains billing companies and repricing firms.

The HIPAA privateness rule additionally applies to enterprise associates, which HHS defines as “an individual or group, aside from a member of a coated entity’s workforce, that performs sure capabilities or actions on behalf of, or gives sure companies to, a coated entity that contain the use or disclosure of individually identifiable well being data.”

HHS says protected well being data beneath HIPAA contains data that pertains to an individual’s previous, current or future bodily or psychological well being or situation. HHS has a list of what information is protected on its web site.

Whereas HIPAA guidelines apply to coated entities and particular enterprise associates, the foundations don’t prolong to most companies, in response to Glenn Cohen, a professor at Harvard Legislation Faculty.

“As a result of the typical enterprise will not be a coated entity or a enterprise affiliate of a coated entity throughout the which means of HIPAA, the statute doesn’t prohibit them asking them about vaccination standing,” Cohen stated in an e-mail to the VERIFY group.

Kayte Spector-Bagdady, a lawyer and bioethicist who can be the affiliate director on the College of Michigan’s Heart for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medication, stated there may be typically a misunderstanding of what HIPAA does.

“Individuals typically really feel like HIPAA protects them from being requested about their medical data, or prohibits different folks from asking about their medical data,” Spector-Bagdady stated. “Neither is true. HIPAA prohibits well being professionals, comparable to your physician, from sharing your recognized well being data with out your permission in most circumstances. Individuals can at all times ask about your well being data, and you’ll nearly at all times decline to reply. However not answering well being questions may come at a price – comparable to not having the ability to enter your office or board a aircraft.”

Extra from VERIFY: Yes, COVID-19 vaccination cards can be faked

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