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HIPAA and Gun Control

HIPAA and Gun Control

On January 6, 2016, in a dramatic national press conference, President Obama announced several actions by his administration to address gun violence in the US. One of these actions is a long-planned modification to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The same day, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a Final Rule adding a permitted disclosure to the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which expressly permits a limited number of Covered Entities to disclose protected health information (PHI) of certain individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The modification is aimed at removing one barrier to expanding the quality of the information in NICS, which is used by firearms vendors to disqualify potential purchasers who are federally barred from owning firearms.