4 News Now Q&A: Does asking for proof of vaccination violate HIPAA?

Q: Does asking for proof of vaccination violate HIPAA?

A: Mask requirements are shifting and COVID restrictions are easing for people who are fully vaccinated. These new rules have many people wondering what is and is not allowed when it comes to requesting proof of vaccination. Some are questioning whether requiring proof violates HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

To clarify the confusion, it’s 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 being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.” Under HIPAA’s privacy rule, health plans, health care clearing houses and health care providers cannot share private health information about a person without their consent.

But does that privacy rule apply to someone’s COVID vaccination status?

The short answer: No.

HIPAA governs places like doctors offices and hospitals. If a restaurant or clothing shop asked to see your vaccination card, you would not necessarily have to divulge that information. You could simply take your business elsewhere. However, it would not be an issue that falls under the HIPAA umbrella.

The rules are similar when it comes to employers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which administers and enforces laws against workplace discrimination, also states asking an employee to show proof of vaccination would not violate federal law. It would be a HIPAA violation for the employee’s healthcare provider to disclose that information to the employer, unless the individual had provided permission to do so.

The bottom line: It is not a violation of HIPAA for any employer or business to ask if someone has been vaccinated. You are not required to give an answer, but be prepared to be denied entry to a store or workplace if you choose not to.

Do you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine? Submit them HERE