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Obama says physicians can ask patients about guns without fear of breaking the law



January 18, 2013
Area(s) of Interest: Health Care Reform Public Health 

President Barack Obama yesterday clarified language in the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) that many health providers had taken to mean a ban on discussing gun ownership with patients.


Medical groups across the nation had expressed concerns about whether they could discuss gun safety with patients because of the little-noticed section of the ACA that prohibits the collection of gun ownership data by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It also restricts wellness and disease prevention programs run by insurers from requiring the collection of data on individuals’ guns.


“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,” Obama said during yesterday's press conference unveiling his new gun control plan.


“The Affordable Care Act does not prohibit or otherwise regulate communication between doctors and patients, including about firearms,” the president’s gun-control plan notes.


Obama also ordered the HHS to “conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it.” He directed HHS to begin by identifying the most pressing research questions with the greatest potential public health impact and assessing existing public health interventions being implemented across the nation to prevent gun violence.

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