HIPAA change to allow reporting of mental health condition to background check system

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Recently the “Department of Health and Human Services has made changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule to allow certain covered entities to disclose to the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System (NCIBS) the identities of individuals who are prohibited from having a firearm, for reasons related to mental health.”

This modification to the Privacy Rule of HIPAA allows covered entities to disclose the minimum necessary information about individuals who have been committed to mental institutions, determined legally to be a danger to themselves, and lack the mental capacity to grasp the consequences of their actions to the FBI’s NCIBS. The Office of Civil Rights director, Jocelyn Samuels believes that this change will serve to preserve the patient-provider relationship, and at the same time not discourage people from seeking voluntary help.

The small change to HIPAA plays an important role in President Obama’s campaign to reduce gun violence and deaths in the country. To mitigate the stigmatism that mental illness has, President Obama has passed a bill that would provide $500 million towards treating mental health conditions. This is a huge boost for mental health professional and patients, since the percentage of U.S. healthcare dollars spent on mental health conditions is only one to two percent.

With time this  key change to healthcare legislation will maintain patient-provider confidentiality, increase the scrutiny of background checks for firearm possessions, and improve the care of mental health conditions.

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Phuong Tran

Phuong Tran is a Carnegie Mellon University-Heinz College graduate with a degree in healthcare policy and management. In his spare time he enjoys discovering new restaurants and playing basketball.

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