23 February, 2010

HIPAA guidelines regarding mental health information

from Wikipedia:

"The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 (P.L.104-191) [HIPAA] was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1996. It was originally sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.). According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website, Title I of HIPAA protects health insurance coverage for workers and their families when they change or lose their jobs.

Title II of HIPAA, known as the Administrative Simplification (AS) provisions, requires the establishment of national standards for electronic health care transactions and national identifiers for providers, health insurance plans, and employers. This is intended to help people keep their information private, though in practice it is normal for providers and health insurance plans to require the waiver of HIPAA rights as a condition of service."

Most everyone is aware to some extent how HIPAA protects our personal health information (PHI) from being disclosed without out expressed consent.
Should these guidelines be the same for mental health issues as they are for physical ailments? Do employers have a right to know if a potential/current employee has a history of mental health issues that could potentially affect their job performance or the interests of the company? Should mental health treatment/diagnoses be available to background checks for handguns/firearms?