Can employers inquire about gun ownership for purposes of a wellness program?


You are conducting a review of your company’s wellness program and would like to require employees to disclose whether they own guns. Can gun ownership be used to help set health insurance rates for employees?


No. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), PHSA Sec. 2717(c) prohibits an organization operating a wellness or health promotion program from requiring the disclosure of certain information relating to firearms.

Disclosure. Although the Labor Department has yet to issue guidance on this topic, wellness and prevention programs provided by group health plans and insurers may not require the disclosure of information relating to: (1) the presence or storage of a lawfully possessed firearm or ammunition on the individual's property or in his or her residence; and (2) the lawful use, possession, or storage of a firearm or ammunition.

Impact on insurance. The lawful ownership, possession, use, or storage of a firearm or ammunition also may not be used to increase health coverage premium rates, deny health insurance, or reduce or withhold wellness program discounts or rewards. Finally, individuals may not be required to disclose lawful firearm information under any data collection authorized by the ACA.

Other issues. Despite these disclosure and premium limits, the ACA provision does not prohibit or otherwise limit communication between health care professionals and their patients, including communications about firearms. However, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is prohibited from authorizing the collection of any information or the maintaining of records relating to the following:

  • lawful ownership or possession of a firearm or ammunition;
  • lawful use of a firearm or ammunition; or
  • lawful storage of a firearm or ammunition.

Source: PHSA Sec. 2717(c); EBSA FAQs about Affordable Care Act Implementation Part XI, Q/A-5, January 2013, as reported in Employee Benefits Directions, Issue No. 536, April 23, 2013.

[ Return to top of document ]