Executive Orders, Obamacare, and Gun Control

January 16th, 2013

One of the President’s executive actions for “gun violence reduction”:

Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

Remember that The Affordable Care Act also included provisions that restricts “the ability of doctors to gather data about their patients’ gun use — a largely overlooked but significant challenge to a movement in American medicine to treat firearms as a matter of public health.”

From a fact sheet:

Address unnecessary legal barriers that prevent states from reporting information about those prohibited from having guns: Some states have cited concerns about restrictions under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act as a reason not to share relevant information on people prohibited from gun ownership for mental health reasons. The Administration will begin the regulatory process to remove any needless barriers, starting by gathering information about the scope and extent of the problem.

Clarify that no federal law prevents health care providers from warning law enforcement authorities about threats of violence: Doctors and other mental health professionals play an important role in protecting the safety of their patients and the broader community by reporting direct and credible threats of violence to the authorities. But there is public confusion about whether federal law prohibits such reports about threats of violence. The Department of Health and Human Services is issuing a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits these reports in any way.

Protect the rights of health care providers to talk to their patients about gun safety: Doctors and other health care providers also need to be able to ask about firearms in their patients’ homes and safe storage of those firearms, especially if their patients show signs of certain mental illnesses or if they have a young child or mentally ill family member at home. Some have incorrectly claimed that language in the Affordable Care Act prohibits doctors from asking their patients about guns and gun safety. Medical groups also continue to fight against state laws attempting to ban doctors from asking these questions. The Administration will issue guidance clarifying that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit or otherwise regulate communication between doctors and patients, including about firearms.

Update: In other news, New York has passed a law that requires therapists and mental health professionals to report to the government if they think a person “is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others.” On such a report, weapons can be seized. No due process applies.

Appelbaum said the New York law could discourage the mentally ill from seeking treatment or being truthful with their therapists. “The people who arguably most need to be in treatment and most need to feel free to talk about these disturbing impulses, may be the ones we make least likely to do so,” he told AP.

Another problem, according to the Times, is that determining which patients are likely to be violent “is more art than science.” Dr. Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist, told the newspaper that most mass murders are committed by “working-class men who’ve been jilted, fired, or otherwise humiliated—and who then undergo a crisis of rage and get out one of the 300 million guns in our country and do their thing.”