Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Consumer advocates against proposal to raise the cost of copying medical records

Posted By on Wed, Jul 31, 2013 at 4:43 PM

On Friday, the Florida Board of Medicine will meet in Deerfield Beach to consider raising the fees for patients requesting their own medical records — from $1 per page for the first 25 pages and 25 cents per page after that — to a flat $1 per page charge for all pages. To give you an example of how expensive that is, at Staples the cost to copy one page of information begins at 3 cents a page. HealthPort Technologies, LLC is the company requesting the increase.

The raise in rates for patients would match the rate that lawyers are currently paying for copies. Tampa resident Barbara Allen says that it's unfair for attorneys to be charged at a higher rate.

"You spend a lot of time with attorneys," she told CL on Wednesday. "You give him the power to do whatever it takes on your behalf. They have complete authority. Why should the law be different for them than for me?"

Allen said that ultimately the client will have to pay as much because they're paying their attorneys to look out for them.

The proposal would also make the cost of electronic documents the same cost as paper copies, a notion that outrages the Florida Consumer Action Network's (FCAN) Bill Newton.

"Electronic records are supposed to cost LESS than paper records," Newton told CL in an email. "Nobody has to dig through files and make copies and all that. Just a quick search and email the record, how hard can it be? Most of us now see the nurse or doctor pull up our records at their office today, and we're amazed at all the details they have at their fingertips, vs paper records, when the doc would have to thumb through pages and pages of your file and maybe find something you mentioned."

Newton added that medical records are part of lawsuits for a variety of reasons, and he suspects that placing an obstacle in the path of obtaining this information might mean the difference between winning and losing.

"And every time a lawyer makes a decision on taking a case, the cost of the case is a major factor," he said."Raising the cost by any increment means fewer law suits."

In addition to FCAN, a host of other groups oppose the proposal, including the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, AARP, NOW, and the Consumer Federation of the Southeast, who all contend that the proposed change would put a financial hurt on the state's most vulnerable cities — the sick, disabled, elderly and low-income folks.

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