HIPAA Amendment Purports to Strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) – Part I

The Department of Health and Human Services issued  a final rule modifying HIPAA.  The modification expressly permits certain limited “covered entities” to disclose to the NICS the identities of individuals who are subject to a Federal “mental health prohibitor” that disqualifies them from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving a firearm.  The scope of the amendment is narrow in that it authorizes the disclosure of “only the limited demographic and certain other information needed for purposes of reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System” and specifically prohibits the disclosure of diagnostic or clinical information.  Further, very few covered entities will be impacted by this amendment.  The amendment authorizes the limited disclosure only if the covered entity is “a State agency or other entity that is, or contains an entity that is: (A) An entity designated by the State to report, or which collects information for purposes of reporting, on behalf of the State, to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; or (B) A court, board, commission, or other lawful authority that makes the commitment or adjudication that causes an individual to become subject to 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(4).”

The Final Rule is available for review at  https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-33181.

Written by: Jacob Simpson

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