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?


  1. I think that metal status should be considered when background checks are being done for firearms. That could potentially cut down on attacks from those that aren't mentally fit to be in control of such a weapon. Psychology is a major factor in determining if people are mentally capable for many things, and should be considered in many circumstances.

  2. This is about as sticky of a question as you can run into. Its very difficult to decide where to draw the line between public safety and privacy. Its difficult to say that an employer or the pubic at large shouldn't have warning about a person with a "tendency" towards violence or a "propensity" towards some sort of dangerous behavior. On the other side of things you run the risk of a further alienating those with mental illnesses no matter how serious or benign. Also how can you justify taking the civil liberties of an individual away because of the way their mind works if they have not committed an act that would warrant special treatment.
    In my mind criminal history and past job/educational performance should be the only determining factor employers should be privy too in background checks no matter what the consequences may be. Otherwise its nearly impossible to protect the civil liberties of individuals in the face of discrimination.

  3. I think that people with sociopathic tendencies should be given large weapons. Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.

  4. Thank you Sam, that's incredibly helpful....

  5. I think employees have the same right to privacy regardless of illness. Physical illness can effect job performance the same as mental. This is a disabilties rights issue. Discrimination would become standard, intentional or not if mental history where available for employers.

    Now in the case of owning a gun, yes I think mental stabitily should be considered. This is a pubic safety issue just as criminal history is part.