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'Are you vaccinated?' | Why that question isn't against HIPAA laws

Yes, your employer, a store you shop at, or a restaurant you eat in can ask you the question.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Are you vaccinated? Show me proof!

Who is allowed to ask you that question? Your employer, the store you want to shop in, the restaurant you want to eat at. 

No, it's not a HIPAA violation. Let's explain why.

HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is a federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient's consent or knowledge.

The keyword there is ‘without’. The law prevents your insurance company from telling your employer ‘without’ your consent. The law prevents your doctor from telling your health info ‘without’ your consent.

When an employer, a store, a restaurant asks you that question, you either consent and give the answer or not. You have full control if that information goes out or not.

Just keep in mind, while you have the right to answer it or not, the employer, the store, the restaurant has the right to refuse you entry if you don't answer, or if the answer doesn't fit into their policy.

According to the CDC, these are the entities that have to abide by HIPAA:

Covered Entities

The following types of individuals and organizations are subject to the Privacy Rule and considered covered entities:

  • Healthcare providers: Every healthcare provider that electronically transmits health information in connection with certain transactions, regardless of the size of the practice. These transactions include claims, benefit eligibility inquiries, referral authorization requests, and other transactions for which HHS has established standards under the HIPAA Transactions Rule.
  • Health plans: Entities that provide or pay the cost of medical care. Health plans include health, dental, vision, and prescription drug insurers; health maintenance organizations (HMOs); Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare+Choice, and Medicare supplement insurers; and long-term care insurers (excluding nursing home fixed-indemnity policies). Health plans also include employer-sponsored group health plans, government- and church-sponsored health plans, and multi-employer health plans.
    • Exception: A group health plan with fewer than 50 participants that is administered solely by the employer that established and maintains the plan is not a covered entity.
  • Healthcare clearinghouses: Entities that process nonstandard information they receive from another entity into a standard (i.e., standard format or data content), or vice versa. In most instances, healthcare clearinghouses will receive individually identifiable health information only when they are providing these processing services to a health plan or healthcare provider as a business associate.
  • Business associates: A person or organization (other than a member of a covered entity’s workforce) using or disclosing individually identifiable health information to perform or provide functions, activities, or services for a covered entity. These functions, activities, or services include claims processing, data analysis, utilization review, and billing.