Clipboard: Affordable Care Act limits collection of gun information from patients

The National Rifle Association successfully lobbied for the national health care law signed by President Obama in 2010 to include provisions restricting the ability of doctors and health plans to collect patient information about gun ownership, Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post reported Sunday.

Several prominent pediatricians have spoken out since the Sandy Hook shootings about how gun advocates have blocked research into firearm safety and preventing gun violence. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that doctors talk with families about safe gun storage. But, a little-noticed provision of the Affordable Care Act advocated by the NRA prohibits health care providers and insurers from requiring patients to talk about their guns.


The bill includes several permutations of the following language, also related to the premium costs and wellness programs:

No individual shall be required to disclose any information under any data collection activity authorized under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or an amendment made by that Act relating to–

(A) the lawful ownership or possession of a firearm or ammunition; or

(B) the lawful use, possession, or storage of a firearm or ammunition.

It is remarkable that the provisions have received almost no attention until now. Wallsten and Hamburger report that some top administration and congressional officials did not know about them until approached by reporters last week.

NRA officials told the reporters that they pushed for the language because they were worried that gun owners would be charged more for their insurance coverage but they did not want to hinder research or doctors’ activities. Some medical groups and gun safety advocates say this fits a pattern by the NRA of blocking providers’ efforts to deal with gun injuries and deaths as a public health issue. They’ve asked the Obama administration to amend the law, arguing that good research lays the groundwork for effective prevention.

Wallsten and Hamburger write:

Physician groups and public health advocates say the cumulative effect of these restrictions undercuts the ability of the White House and lawmakers to make the case for new laws, such as an assault-weapons ban, in the face of opponents who argue that there’s no evidence such measures are effective. Advocates for regulating guns lament that reliable statistics are limited in part because physicians and health researchers who could track these patterns are being inhibited.

“This illustrates the fact that the NRA has insinuated themselves into the small crevices of anything they can to do anything in their power to prohibit sensible gun-safety measures,’’ said Denise Dowd, an emergency-care physician at a Kansas City, Mo., children’s hospital and an adviser on firearms issues to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dowd called the provision in the health-care bill “pretty outrageous,’’ saying it risked creating a sense among doctors that “this is dangerous information to collect.’’

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