Conflicting Orders

Obamacare and Obama executive actions conflict on gun issue

• January 31, 2013 12:00 pm


One of the 23 executive actions issued by President Barack Obama to curb gun violence contradicts existing language in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), observers claim.

The executive action makes it clear "that no federal law in any way prohibits doctors or other health care providers from reporting their patients’ threats of violence to the authorities" and that "the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes."

Yet language in the ACA states doctors or health service officials cannot disclose or collect "the presence or storage of a lawfully-possessed firearm or ammunition in the residence or on the property of the individual" and limits the ability of insurance companies to collect information on gun owners.

Those familiar with both Obamacare and the president’s executive actions believe there is a tension between the two.

"Obamacare forbids the collection of information regarding guns," said Cato Institute senior fellow in constitutional studies Ilya Shapiro at Cato’s Libertarian State of the Union. "And yet, one of the directives is to clarify that Obamacare does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes. Without Obamacare, that's probably something a directive that the federal government could do. But I’ve looked at the technical language … and it seems like you know for good or ill, that contradicts it."

As the Blaze noted before the executive actions were released, "while doctors are not banned from asking about guns, they are forbidden from documenting the information and using it for research purposes."

"Depending on what they say in the clarifying language, it doesn’t seem like there is much wiggle room to modify what can be discussed between doctors and patients," Shapiro told the Free Beacon. "It depends on how some things are implanted. Like mental health collection and databases relating to individual privacy."

"The devil will be in the details."

The NRA lobbied heavily to add the language into the ACA, citing concerns about insurers collecting information to raise gun owner’s premiums. Critics say the language was added to avoid research on gun violence.

Gun control proponents and advocates for more research on gun safety say the Department of Health and Human Services will soon clarify the language within the ACA, which both sides agree is unclear.

Ladd Everitt, director of communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said the executive action does not conflict with previous language but is an attempt "to clarify the intent of certain provisions." Everitt also said there is "kind of a theme where the NRA has put hurdles into law and (the administration) interpreting them to remove those restrictions."

Mike Hammond, a legal advisor for Gun Owners of America, lobbied for over a year to add the language into the ACA. While the NRA focused on protecting gun owner’s premiums, Hammond said the language was added for other purposes as well.

Hammond said gun lobbyists were concerned "about AMA [American Medical Association] protocol in many states." Doctors are "encouraged to ask people and children of gun owners whether or not they have firearms. It was our concern that information would be used in a database as a gun registration system in the health database, and that is the issue that a lot of people are worried about right now."

Hammond also had concerns about how much information went into the national medical database, saying "we expect that the database will contain whatever the doctor asks about or found in connection with that checkup and as a result Obama’s executive action on Obamacare is inaccurate. We disagree with him and that is a permissible interpretation."

The White House was not immediately available for comment.