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HIPAA-Critical Marjorie Taylor Greene Doesn’t Know What She’s Talking About

HIPAA-Critical Marjorie Taylor Greene Doesn’t Know What She’s Talking About
Alex Wong/Getty Images

I don't usually spend much time answering utter idiocy, but when that idiocy spreads like a virus and starts showing up in the comment threads and chat rooms of the dangerously misinformed, it's important to clarify the record—and in this case the law.

Marjorie Taylor Greene's Twitter account was suspended for 12 hours after she, once again, tweeted misinformation about the coronavirus. In response, she held a press conference. Now, the world had heard most of the nonsense she said before, but one new gem stood out.

In response to a reporter's question about whether she herself had been vaccinated—after all, she was pushing myths about the risks of the vaccine, so it's fair game to ask whether she was being a hypocrite—Rep. Greene responded:

"Your first question is a violation of my HIPAA rights."

Yes, Rep. Greene believes, and is misinforming all her followers, that people are generally not allowed to ask you about your vaccination status, that it's somehow a violation of HIPAA to do so. This take on the law is just flat-out wrong. It is in fact entirely legal for a reporter, or anyone other than a health professional or their associates, to ask Rep. Greene about her vaccination status. (Healthcare providers can also ask under certain circumstances, i.e. only in private and only when there is a medical need to know.)

This means that, yes, private businesses can ask you to show proof of vaccination before entering their premises without running afoul of HIPAA.

HIPAA is actually quite limited. It stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It has a privacy rule that covers your medical records and applies only to the healthcare profession—such as doctors, medical workers, and organizations that store and manage your records, along with their representatives and agents such as their lawyers. Those persons and companies work daily with your medical history and data and are not permitted to share them without your prior consent.

That's it. That's what it covers. What HIPAA most certainly does not cover are any questions from non-medical parties, such as your airline, a concert venue, or a reporter at a press conference, to name a few. Unfortunately, after Greene insisted that "with HIPAA rights we don't have to reveal our medical records, and that involves our vaccine records," the reporter didn't try to correct her false assertion.

Let's be very precise. Health and Human Services itself has made clear that life insurance companies, employers, workers' compensation carriers, schools, state agencies, police agencies, and local municipal governments are not under the HIPAA privacy rule.

And as HHS further notes, employers can even ask you for your medical information without running afoul of HIPAA, but if they ask the doctor for the information directly, the doctor can't give it out.

So the next time your Facebook friend or crazy uncle says that people aren't allowed under law to ask others whether they've been vaccinated, you can pull a Dr. Fauci and insist that, like Rep. Greene, they simply don't know what they're talking about.