SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WICS/WRSP) - It's one of the biggest questions about the new mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Who is and isn't allowed to ask if you’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine?
HIPAA? I don't know what it means to you, but it means to me that you're hipper than everybody else,” Springfield resident Larry Jamerson said.
Not exactly. And it was hard to find anyone on the streets of Springfield that knew the exact definition.
Rummana Alum is a Teaching Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also specializes in health law practice. She says HIPAA is only applicable to medical providers.
So those are healthcare providers, healthcare clearinghouses, health plans like your insurer,” Alam said. “And any of their business associates.
Alam says that HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, stops healthcare providers from accessing your medical information without your explicit permission.
"Your employer is not a covered entity and therefore HIPAA would not apply," Alam said.
That means that your employer can ask if you've been vaccinated, and they can require you to get it. But what about private businesses?
"There's nothing preventing a business to say, 'we're not going to allow you to come in if you don't have a vaccine,'” Alam said. “But that raises the issue of what the proof is.”
Nothing about HIPAA prevents a business from asking if you've been vaccinated or even denying you entry if you refuse to answer.
"Personally, it wouldn't bother me because I am vaccinated,” Springfield tourist Sue Moore said. “But in privacy in general, I don't think a business should be able to ask. How do they check, you know?"
One potential legal gray area, according to Alam, is an employer asking why someone hasn't been vaccinated. She says that could begin to cross-disability or religious protections of the person being asked.
More than 40 states across the nation have introduced legislation to ban mandates that require getting the vaccine.