On Tuesday, Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was asked a simple question. Her answer was, uh, revealing.
Here’s the question, asked of Greene by a reporter during a press availability in her office: “Have you yourself gotten vaccinated?”
And now for her answer: “Your first question is a violation of my HIPAA rights. You see with HIPAA rights we don’t have to reveal our medical records and that also includes our vaccine records.”
You can — and should — watch it for yourself here.
Greene — and stop me if you’ve heard this before, is simply wrong about HIPAA aka the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Passed in 1995, the law, at least in part, was aimed at assuring “that individuals’ health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality health care and to protect the public’s health and well being,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services website.
But, Greene’s comments about a reporter’s question being some sort of HIPAA violation and that her vaccination status is covered by HIPAA suggests she has no earthly idea what the law actually does (and doesn’t) protect.
As Aaron Keller wrote on Law & Crime:
“Greene’s comment — which, again, claimed that the ‘question’ itself violated HIPAA — was entirely inaccurate. Journalists are not banned, barred, or bound by HIPAA from inquiring about anyone’s health status or their vaccination status. It’s up to the individual to whom the question is posed to decide whether or not to answer. HIPAA does not ban journalists from asking about health information. Indeed, if it did, then the law would almost surely have been met with a vigorous First Amendment challenge.”
Then there’s Greene’s second claim that her HIPAA rights mean she doesn’t have to say whether she has been vaccinated against Covid-19. Again, Keller is instructive here:
“People have to reveal medical information all the time. HIPAA does not grant each American medical patient a universal shield against the passing of medical data.
“Employers have a legal right (to) question whether job candidates are fit for service. Schools can ask bus drivers whether they can see properly with or without corrective lenses. Airlines can ask pilots whether they have a history of seizures. Railroad engineers can be required to take drug tests. Warehouses can ask applicants if they can lift boxes of a certain weight. Firefighters and police officers are required to prove physical fitness. Medical examinations are often attached to such employment. HIPAA does not ban the asking of such questions or the gleaning of such data.”
There is, of course, irony too in Greene hiding behind a federal law — even if her understanding of said law is, er, limited — as a way to avoid saying whether she has been vaccinated. Greene’s entire political life is based on the idea of an overly controlling and intrusive federal government — except, I guess, when she can use that government to get out of answering a question she doesn’t like.
Look. Greene has the right to refuse to answer a question about her vaccination status. What she doesn’t have a right to do is totally misinterpret HIPAA to do it.