Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gun Discussions Overlooked Part of Health Care Reform Law

With all the debates, discussions, and analyses that have followed passage of the health care reform law known as the Affordable Care Act, one provision that would have been controversial—if it was recognized—has remained under the radar of politicians and pundits. Included under the headline "Protection of Second Amendment Gun Rights" is a provision that, as with a recent Florida law, limits the ability of physicians to discuss with patients the presence of guns in their homes. Subject of a long article in the Washington Post last week, the section of the reform law was developed and pushed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), among the most powerful lobbies in Washington, in the last weeks of negotiation over the content of the law. It had bipartisan support and was introduced by NRA ally Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) While physicians insist that gun-possession discussions are a key component of their health-related interactions with patients, the NRA maintained that this provision was needed to prevent insurance companies from using patients' gun ownership as a reason to raise the premiums of gun owners. The provision, the article said, involves the law's section on wellness and prevention and bars "disclosure or collection of any information" involving "presence or storage of a lawfully possessed firearm or ammunition" in or around a patient's home.

The article noted that this limit on medical professionals' rights to inquire about gun ownership follows a 1996 limit passed by allies of the NRA that limited the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use federal funds to study gun violence.

For coverage of the Florida gun-discussion law, including APA's amicus brief challenging the law, see Psychiatric News here and here.

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