Q: Does asking for proof of vaccination violate HIPAA law?
A: Mask requirements are changing and COVID restrictions are easing for people who are fully vaccinated. These new rules leave many people wondering what is and is not allowed when it comes to requesting proof of vaccination. Some wonder if the proof requirement violates HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Liability Act 1996.
To clarify the confusion, it is first important to understand the specifics of the law.
The CDC defines HIPAA as “a federal law that created national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from disclosure without the patient’s consent or knowledge.” Under the HIPAA privacy rule, health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers cannot share private health information about an individual without their consent.
But does this privacy rule apply to a person’s COVID vaccination status?
The short answer: No.
HIPAA governs places like doctors’ offices and hospitals. If a restaurant or clothing store asked to see your vaccination card, you would not necessarily be required to disclose this information. You can just take your business elsewhere. However, that would not be a problem that falls under the HIPAA umbrella.
The rules are similar for employers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which administers and enforces workplace discrimination laws, also says asking an employee to show proof of vaccination would not violate federal law. It would be a violation of HIPAA for the employee’s health care provider to disclose this information to the employer, unless the person has given permission to do so.
The bottom line: It is not a violation of HIPAA for an employer or business to ask if someone has been vaccinated. You don’t have to give an answer, but be prepared to be refused entry to a store or workplace if you choose not to.
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