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To begin 2016, President Obama made 23 executive actions related to gun control in an attempt to reduce some of the gun violence that has plagued our country in recent years. These actions, of course, immediately put many people in a frenzy about their second amendment rights. While Obama did introduce some new restrictions for purchasing guns/ammunition, a lot of these restrictions were already in the law books per the Gun Control Act of 1968.

The Gun Control Act of 1968

Why am I speaking on gun control, you ask? Because believe it or not, gun control regulations can potentially affect the health information management industry and our clients and their patients. The Gun Control Act of 1968specifically laid out restrictions for selling guns to mentally unstable people, such as those that have been committed to a mental institution, found not-guilty by reason of insanity, or those that are a danger to themselves or others. Obviously, it's pretty apparent that this hasn't been enforced very well, and now here we are today. So, why is this still occurring as often as it is? Well, another law was created to help protect the privacy of patients (including mental health patients), and it simultaneously restricted the background checks from including this information. This law is, of course, the HIPAA Privacy Rule. So, here’s where release of information companies become involved.

Obama’s goal with these new executive actions is modification of the HIPAA Privacy Rule to allow the Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Instant Background Check System to have access to a limited amount of information to verify that mentally unstable people are prohibited from purchasing firearms. So essentially, he's not creating some new law - he's actually allowing a law that was written 50 years ago to work the way it was intended all along.

The Future of Gun Restrictions, Mental Health & ROI

What impact this will have on health information management and release of information is yet to be determined, but it may cause some changes in workflow of our partnering facilities that treat people for mental illness. My understanding is that information the FBI would have access to would be limited to only demographic information and other pertinent information to aid in the process to running the background check. Therefore, one can infer that if MediCopy and other ROI companies have to send anything directly from our offices, it will most likely only be a demographic page. 2016 is going to be a crazy year politically, and it’s possible that these executive actions could get reversed depending on who wins the election. Only time will tell.

Stuart Mobley, Director of Quality & Compliance