CHA News Article

Obama Issues Executive Action to Reduce Gun Violence, Modifies HIPAA Privacy Rule

President Obama yesterday issued an Executive Action intended to reduce gun violence. The action directs various federal government agencies to overhaul and expand the background check system, increase funding to enforce gun laws, and conduct or sponsor research on gun safety technology. In addition, several provisions affect the health care industry:

  • A proposed new $500 million expenditure seeks to improve access to mental health care by increasing service capacity and the behavioral health workforce.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services has revised the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule to expressly permit (but not require) certain HIPAA covered entities to provide to the NICS the minimum necessary identifying information about individuals who have been determined by a lawful authority to be a danger to themselves or others or to lack the mental capacity to manage their own affairs. However, the state of California — through the California Department of Justice (Cal DOJ) — conducts its own background checks using state records as well as the NICS. California law already requires hospitals to report to the Cal DOJ those mental health patients who are prohibited from possessing firearms. Therefore, California health care providers need not (and should not) report any patients to NICS under this new HIPAA provision.


  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will include information from the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm. Current law prohibits individuals from buying a gun if, because of a mental health issue, they are either a danger to themselves or others or are unable to manage their own affairs. The SSA will begin the rulemaking process to ensure that appropriate information in its records is reported to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This will affect approximately 75,000 people each year who have a documented mental health issue, receive disability benefits and are unable to manage those benefits because of their mental impairment, or who have been found by a state or federal court to be legally incompetent. The rulemaking will also provide a mechanism for people to seek relief from this federal prohibition on possessing a firearm for reasons related to mental health.

CHA publishes two manuals that contain detailed information about California’s requirement to report mental health patients who are legally prohibited from possessing firearms: the Consent Manual — A Reference for Consent and Related Health Care Law and the Mental Health Law manual. For more information or to order these publications, visit