Congress is back in session and will begin its work in finalizing a final spending bill for fiscal year 2018. Both chambers are considering new ways to address the opioid crisis, and we should expect a renewed push around gun control and mental health. We cover this and more in this week’s health care preview.

President Obama has announced plans to tighten gun control regulations, including applying the background check requirement to dealers at gun shows and on websites.  Federal law already requires that those “engaged in the business” of selling guns must have a Federal Firearms License (FFL) and conduct background checks at the time of every purchase.  Some sellers assert they are not gun dealers but collectors or hobbyists who do not sell regularly and, therefore, are not “engaged in the business” of selling firearms and not required to have a FFL and conduct background checks.  The Obama administration has clarified that people who claim to be hobbyists may be engaged in the business if, for example, they operate an online gun store, frequently sell guns in their original packaging, or pass out business cards.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“ATF”) issued Guidance to help individuals understand when a FFL is required.

Consistent with this initiative, the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) released a Final Rule modifying the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) Privacy Rule to permit certain covered entities to disclose identifying information on persons subject to a “Federal mental health prohibitor “ to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”). Continue Reading Gun Control: HIPAA Final Rule Targets Background Checks and Mental Health Reporting