If you’re confused about whether you can ask about someone’s vaccination status, you’re not alone. When questioned by a reporter this week if she was vaccinated, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) declined to disclose her status, saying doing so would “violate her HIPAA rights.”
HIPAA, which stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is the 1996 law prohibiting health professionals from revealing client medical records. It does not prevent individuals from revealing their medical information, and it certainly doesn’t disallow employers from asking.
Rather, HIPAA only applies to covered entities such as health care providers, health plans, health care clearinghouses, and their business associates. So it’s illegal for a medical provider to disclose private health information without a patent’s consent. But it is not an HIPAA violation for an individual or employer, for example, to ask about a person’s vaccine status. Again, HIPAA does not apply to entities outside the health care world.
It is important to note, however, that if you require vaccine information from employees, anything you collect must be kept confidential and held private in files that are separate from personnel files, David Barron, a Houston-based labor and employment attorney for Cozen O’Connor told Inc. A failure to do so may result in anti-discrimination violations under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, two laws that protect workers from health status discrimination.
So, yes, Rep. Greene does not have to disclose her vaccine status to the world, but that’s merely her prerogative, and it has nothing to do with HIPAA.