HIPAA and Mental Health

Recent mass killings in Gilroy, El Paso, Dayton, and Santa Ana have caused us to discuss the state of mental health in this country. The argument is that “we” or “someone” needs to find people who fit the profile of these isolated sociopathic would-be killers before they act. The problem is “we” or “someone” can’t do so, and a principal reason they can’t do so is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, otherwise known as HIPAA. HIPAA makes it so that the initial cry for help needs to come from the mentally ill person, and not from someone, even a family member, on the outside looking at this mental illness situation and trying proactively to do something about it. If we want a more proactive strategy to search for the mentally ill and those who might fit the mass killer profile, HIPAA needs to change.

Saiorse Kennedy Hill

In addition to the tragic loss of life in the above-named cities, we also recently lost the granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy. Although the cause of Saiorse Kennedy Hill’s death has not been yet revealed, Ms. Hill had issues while at prep school at Deerfield Academy and wrote specifically about her issues and how HIPAA exacerbated her problems in the Deerfield school newspaper. Those issues included attempted suicide. I refer you to this column by Andrea Peyser in the New York Post. Because of HIPAA, Ms. Hill wrote, nobody at Deerfield had the ability to reach out to her to help her back after a difficult spate.

It is not a stretch to think that a high school-aged girl struggling with mental health issues might be similar to an isolated young man struggling with his own issues and feeling ever more isolated and trying to figure out how he might get even with those who are against him in his own mind. A teacher or a colleague might see this situation developing and want to do something about it. They might confront the person, who might, in turn, tell the person with good intentions to take a hike. “Intervention” sounds like a good idea but it is really hard to pull off.


All of us who go to the doctor have to sign HIPAA forms typically once every year per doctor. When you do so, though you might take comfort that HIPAA helps you with your own medical privacy, it also in a twisted way contributes to some of the most tragic events in our society. I advocate that HIPAA needs to be revised such that interventions are easier to accomplish because mental health is a growing concern. Health insurance and physical and mental health are an important part of Financial Planning, and so this is certainly an issue that my fellow financial planners should address and advocate.

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