Isn’t There a HIPAA Issue Here?

I was reading and snickering, as I do, because I am evil and I suck etc. etc. etc., at Say Uncle’s post about gun owners wanting a right to privacy when two things occured to me.  One–I don’t have a gun.  As easy as it was for folks to map all the Prop 8 donors, it would be just that easy for them to map all the gun owners in Tennessee.  At first, this seems fine.  What do I care?  I don’t have a gun.

BUT, I don’t have a gun.  If all the gun owners’ houses are mapped, by process of elimination, all the non-gun owners’ houses are mapped.  Is now a good time to remind people that I have a dog, who eats babies just for fun?  Who can take down a 200 pound man just by looking at him?

I actually don’t think that I want people to easily find out that my house is unarmed.

But, two is a bigger issue, I think.  If, in order to get a gun permit you have to reveal things like whether you have had any kind of psychiactric problems or drug or alcohol addiction.  Okay, fine.  But can the government turn around and release that information to the general public?  Isn’t that a HIPAA violation?  In other states, I could see that it might not be, but the state of Tennessee is a healthcare provider through TennCare and, as a healthcare provider, they have to keep a person’s medical records private.  So, even if it’s legal to release the names of people who have guns, how are they able to release what clearly seems to be medical information?

7 thoughts on “Isn’t There a HIPAA Issue Here?

  1. If there’s anything you have to sign in order to get that permit, it’s probably in the fine print that you are allowing them to release any information in the application to whoever the hell they want, which absolves them from following HIPAA. That’s why you should always take the time to read that fine print.

  2. Pingback: Then They’ll Know : Post Politics: Political News and Views in Tennessee

  3. Actually, there’s no HIPAA issue. HIPAA tends to only apply to health plans and health care providers, not this sort of thing. But in general agreement otherwise.

  4. Depends on how one constructs the definition clause of HIPAA. It’s comprehensive and it doesn’t take a wild construction to place states under its purview. In fact, it carefully doesn’t exempt government entities, for the most part. The government has the right to collect things like birth/death records and keep registries of communicable disease patients and so forth; however, in other circumstances when there’s no compelling public interest in the release of the information, HIPAA clearly states that state and federal governments have a duty to protect privacy when they collect personally identifiable health information.

    What’s the compelling public interest in learning about which of your neighbors have a gun and a history of Xanax dependency?

  5. I think they’re referring to people with carry permits – people who have asked for & received permission to carry a gun on their person. It wouldn’t necessarily give you a valid Google map of people with guns, just those who are packing while they’re mowing the grass, getting mail out of the box, or sipping a brew on the front porch swing.

  6. Well, true, when the state obtains the information as a health care provider or plan, but not necessarily otherwise, and there are myriad ways for a person to waive his or her “rights” under HIPAA .

    Not to say that some other laws or requirements might apply,.though. and also not to necessarily say that I think it’s a great idea.

    But, on balance, I’m generally a big fan of any policy or idea that treats law-abiding gun owners like dirt because guns are super-scary and I know my children will be safer with guns “off the streets.”

    Assuming, of course, that my can have guns of their own.

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