Think stores asking vaccine status is a HIPAA violation? Not so
You’ve heard it said plenty lately. Just this month on Instagram an image claiming “The rule is simple, HIPAA protects EVERY American from disclosing ANY of their health records to ANYONE” was removed for spreading false information.
This claim has been made repeatedly regarding being questioned about COVID-19 vaccination status. Those spreading it say stores for example would be in violation of HIPAA laws by asking such a thing.
And they’re wrong.
It matters because this Friday Gov. Phil Murphy is lifting the indoor mask mandate. It would finally mirror CDC guidance that almost all states but us adopted yet he had shunned. The concern is what will happen with the many who refused to get vaccinated. The CDC guidance calls for them to still mask up indoors in public places like stores. But if no one is asking for vaccine proof at the door, will the honor system work? Not likely. Which is certainly why in Monday's announcement the governor said as of Friday there would be no requirement to wear masks indoors for both the vaccinated AND unvaccinated, but that stores are fully allowed on their own to mandate the wearing of masks for unvaccinated individuals.
Legal experts assert stores are fully free to ask. All HIPAA does is state that health care professionals themselves cannot share a patient’s private health information with anyone unless they have that patient’s permission. It has nothing whatsoever to do with other people, businesses, schools, etc., from asking as part of policy. Put it this way. If HIPAA really made it illegal to ask about your health status regarding vaccines how have public schools done it for all these years? How have colleges and universities? According to an article in USA Today HIPAA has zero bearing on questions about a person’s health outside of a healthcare setting.
Does this mean there will be a state issued vaccine passport? No. Does this mean store employees will be made to ask for the little card they gave you when you received your COVID-19 vaccine? No.
But does it mean they could? Absolutely.
Now the difference between could and should can be enormous. What was the great line in Jurassic Park? “... so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.”
They shouldn’t. It’s just one more thing dividing an already divided nation. And does it suck for the poor few who are medically unable to take a vaccine? Yes indeed. They are the reason we strive for herd immunity. Will people abuse the honor system? Of course they will. The arrogant and the misinformed who have listened to the wrong people all along and trusted their science to memes and discredited outlier charlatan doctors will not suddenly find honor. They will lie and pretend they were vaccinated just to walk into stores without a mask. The numbers on COVID-19 are now heavily in our favor, yet some will get sick and still die because of these types.
But generally speaking, when the supply now outweighs the demand for a vaccine, it’s time to let nature take its course and stop trying to control the delusional. Maybe some of them will be the ones to get infected instead of the innocent ones who cannot medically vaccinate. Either way, asking for proof of vaccination is not against any HIPAA law. They just shouldn’t do it.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.