Conservative author and podcast host David J. Harris Jr. reportedly delayed an American Airlines flight on Saturday after he refused to wear a mask because of medical issues and refused to answer crew member’s questions about his condition because he claimed it violated his HIPAA rights.
In an Instagram video Harris Jr. recorded on the plane, he begins explaining “people on the plane are tripping out” because he is refusing to wear a mask and that the “captain just announced he is going to look up all the rules” regarding wearing facial coverings.
In a second update, Harris Jr. records the pilot giving an announcement to those who feel unsafe that they can rebook their flight.
“They cannot violate your HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) rights as an American and ask you anything about your medical issue. So, for all the people on the plane that may want to get off, ‘cause they don’t feel safe, then get the heck off! I’m staying right here,” Harris said, laughing.
Though Harris Jr. cites the violation of the 1996 law HIPAA, Cindy Haines, a principal at Post & Schell Attorneys, said the law only applies to hospitals, doctors, insurers or others you’re seeking treatment from. Asking for medical information does not violate HIPAA.
"So, I may want to protect my privacy and not give my information to, for example an airline, but I am certainly able to do that without breaking HIPAA," said Haines to Fox43. "They're not breaking HIPAA asking you for that information."
According to Harris Jr., he did not leave the plane and no other passengers got off to rebook their flights.
“So anyway, know your rights, stand up for your rights, and, uh, you’ll win in the end,” Harris Jr. said.
He concludes his video in a car, “I am in no way telling anybody to lie about anything” in regards to medical conditions.
According to experts, wearing a mask cuts the risk of contracting coronavirus by 65 percent. Despite false rumors being spread about the dangers of wearing masks, doctors have explained it does not affect oxygen levels in the body and there is no evidence masks cause fungal or bacterial infections.
American Airlines is instituting a new policy beginning this week that will not allow anyone not wearing a mask to travel, regardless of medical issues.
“Only customers under the age of two will be exempt from the new face covering policy. No other exemptions will be granted, even for those with verifiable medical conditions, due to the safety risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission by customers without face coverings. If a customer cannot wear a face covering, they will not be able to travel on American Airlines,” the new policy states.