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When doctors ask about guns

November 19, 2013 - Jim Anderson
A caller to Rush Limbaugh today said he was startled when his wife went to the doctor and was asked on a required questionnaire whether firearms are kept in her home and whether they might be loaded.

Limbaugh was happy to feed the caller’s suspicions that the gun-related questions are mandated under the Affordable Care Act.

But that’s not the case.

Far from it.

It is up to health care providers whether they want to inquire about family firearms. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, supports questions about gun ownership because of concerns for children’s safety.

The National Rifle Association, meanwhile, argues that doctors violate patients’ Constitutional rights when questions are asked about gun ownership. While gun advocates have been unable to achieve a ban on such queries, they did succeed in getting a provision in “Obamacare” that prevents doctors from documenting such information and using it for research.

Earlier this year, in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, President Obama issued an executive action that, among other things, clarifies that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking patients about guns in their homes.

But, again, it’s not mandated. It’s up to the providers.

And why would doctors want to ask?

Firearms are a significant public health issue. A study released earlier this month at a meeting of the American Public Health Association says the cost in hospital charges alone to treat victims of firearms-related injuries is more than $2 billion a year.



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