TAMPA, Fla. — With vaccines for COVID-19 now widely available, we are seeing more instances of businesses requiring both their employees and customers to be vaccinated, and sometimes even asking for proof of vaccination.
We have also seen videos like the one below. Social media users post videos of customers they dub as “Karens.” Often, they are upset with mask or vaccine rules, claiming they are a violation of HIPAA.
So, what is HIPAA?
Some people think it stands for the Health Insurance Privacy and Protection Act. However, that would be HIPPA, and the proper acronym is HIPAA.
That one “P” stands for portability, obviously.
Its actual name is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It’s a national standard that protects sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge. According to the CDC, the main goal is to ensure your health information is properly protected while it is handled by certain people or organizations.
Those who must comply with HIPAA include healthcare providers, like doctors or hospitals. Then there are health plans, along with healthcare clearinghouses, which would be like a middleman for healthcare providers and insurance payers.
Lastly, businesses that use medical information, like a data analysis company, have to follow HIPAA as well.
You may be thinking, what about all the other organizations that have to handle medical information like law enforcement agencies or your child’s school? Those organizations are not covered by HIPAA.
In general, HIPAA does not apply to most businesses. When a business asks its employee to show proof of a vaccination, it would not be considered a HIPAA violation. However, businesses do have to keep that information private, but not because of HIPAA. It is because of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Requiring customers to show proof of vaccination is also not covered by HIPAA. In most states, a business can actually ask about any medical condition you may have and still not violate HIPAA.
Here in Florida, businesses and schools can be fined for requiring proof of a COVID vaccination. However, that is not HIPAA, that is just Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Let’s say you go to the grocery store and you do not want to wear a mask because of a medical condition you say you have. If an employee asks you what that medical condition is, it is not a violation, and the grocery store can prevent you from coming inside.
However, if for some reason your doctor was also at the grocery store, heard your medical condition, and then told everyone else, that would be a violation.
In general, there is a good chance that business or your employer is not violating HIPAA by setting their own rules for service.