Reminder: Comments Due on HIPAA, Mental Health, and the National Background Check Database
Last chance to submit your feedback: Friday, June 7, 2013!
On January 16, 2013, President Obama announced a series of Executive Actions to reduce gun violence in the United States. These actions include efforts to improve the Federal Government's background check system, called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), for the sale or transfer of firearms by licensed dealers. Among those persons who are disqualified from possessing or receiving firearms under Federal law are those "adjudicated to be mentally defective, or who have been committed to a mental institution" (mental health prohibitor). Concerns have been raised that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule may be a barrier to states' reporting to NICS the identities of individuals subject to the mental health prohibitor.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is seeking public comments on how HIPAA may prevent state reporting to NICS, and how these barriers can be addressed without discouraging individuals from seeking mental health services. Additional comments are encouraged on proposals to establish "express permission" for reporting relevant information and on best methods of disseminating HIPAA-related information to state reporting entities.
Public input is also being sought on unintended consequences that such actions may have on individuals seeking mental health services. An important consideration when responding is the effect of the proposed HIPAA change on "temporary hold" cases.