Friday, May 25, 2018
Health

Consumer groups fighting proposed higher charges for medical records

Consumer advocates and attorneys are lining up against a proposal to allow patients requesting their own medical records to be charged up to four times what they pay now.

The proposed change, which comes before the Florida Board of Medicine on Friday, is the result of a request by a lobbyist for HealthPort Technologies LLC, a national company that contracts with doctors groups to handle medical records.

Currently, state rules allow health providers to charge patients $1 per page for the first 25 pages and 25 cents per page after that. The request would allow $1 charges for every page.

It may not sound huge, but opponents say it adds up quickly, especially for patients who need hundreds of records to apply for disability benefits or file malpractice claims.

"It just seems unfair to charge them these excessive amounts," said Alice Vickers, with the Florida Consumer Action Network.

HealthPort's lobbyist, Cynthia Henderson, wrote in a letter to the Board of Medicine that the request will simplify the state administrative code. The proposed change also makes the cost of electronic documents the same as paper copies.

Henderson said producing copies is not a simple process. Medical copying companies — they are known as the "release of information" industry — must follow detailed procedures to ensure patient confidentiality, she wrote.

"Many people mistakenly believe that production of electronic medical records is as simple as locating a file on a server and attaching it to an email and hitting send or copying it to a disc or flash drive," she wrote to the board. "Similarly, many people believe production of paper copies is as simple as retrieving the file from a shelf or drawer and putting it in a copy machine and hitting 'start.' "

Vickers said the records contractors have not shown why they are entitled to higher rates.

"I think you're talking big bucks here when you look at the volume of medical records," she said.

At least one class of people already have been paying the higher $1 per page rate: lawyers. The existing state code says only that patients and governments are entitled to the 25-cent provision. So HealthPort has charged lawyers, even those acting on behalf of patients, at a rate of $1 per page.

Barbara Allen, a 69-year-old Tampa resident, hired an attorney after falling at a Family Dollar store last year and breaking her femur. When her attorney requested her medical records from her orthopedic group, he was charged at the higher rate, which turned into a $217 bill. That cost was passed on to her.

"That's why you spend all this time signing legal paperwork, getting them to act on your behalf," said Allen, who would've owed a little over $70 if her lawyer had been charged the same as a patient.

Now Allen is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against HealthPort, alleging that the company had overcharged her attorney and was "essentially holding records ransom for the payment of unlawful fees."

The Florida Board of Medicine's meeting will be held at the Hilton Deerfield Beach/Boca Raton in Deerfield Beach.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3374.

Comments
Stroke stories can have a happy ending: What you should know

Stroke stories can have a happy ending: What you should know

Arto Woods and his wife, Syvilla, had a good flight from Baltimore to Tampa in early May. En route, they talked about how convenient it would have been to fly directly into Orlando, where the conference that brought them to Florida was being held, bu...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Finding a yoga retreat to stretch the mind and body

Finding a yoga retreat to stretch the mind and body

Before I attended my first yoga retreat on a trip to see my sister in Oregon, I did exactly zero preparation. Turns out, that’s just fine, and it opened up the wider world of what a yoga getaway can give you.With four hours of yoga classes a day, my ...
Published: 05/25/18
Music makes us happy, motivated, determined … and hungry?

Music makes us happy, motivated, determined … and hungry?

Music is the ultimate mood setter. Faster beats gets us pumped up to work out. A slower rhythm can set a romantic mood or help one unwind at the end of a long day.Music can also influence the kinds of food we crave. A study co-authored by a Universit...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Estimated 7,000 bodies may be buried at former asylum

Estimated 7,000 bodies may be buried at former asylum

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Some of the boxes stacked inside anthropologist Molly Zuckerman’s laboratory contain full bones — a skull, a jaw, or a leg. Others contain only plastic bags of bone fragments that Zuckerman describes as "grit." These humble remain...
Published: 05/23/18
FDA warns teething medicines are unsafe for babies

FDA warns teething medicines are unsafe for babies

WASHINGTON — Federal health officials warned parents Wednesday about the dangers of teething remedies that contain a popular numbing ingredient and asked manufacturers to stop selling their products intended for babies and toddlers. The Food and Drug...
Published: 05/23/18
A chronic lack of sleep could lead to decreased brain function, study finds

A chronic lack of sleep could lead to decreased brain function, study finds

A sleep study revealed that less than six hours of sleep a day can limit the brain’s ability to function properly.The study, published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that people experiencing less than...
Published: 05/23/18
Many cancer patients juggle care along with financial pain

Many cancer patients juggle care along with financial pain

Josephine Rizo survived chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, but breast cancer treatment wrecked her finances.Money was already tight when doctors told the Phoenix resident she had an aggressive form of the disease. Then she took a pay cut after goin...
Published: 05/22/18

Hernando County officials gather to remedy ‘dearth of services’ for youth with mental illness

BROOKSVILLE — Educators, court officials, law enforcement officers and health care professionals met Friday to identify the best ways to keep local youth with mental illnesses out of the court system and provide treatment for those already in the sys...
Published: 05/22/18
Give your arms a workout, too

Give your arms a workout, too

In addition to appearance, it is very important to maintain strength in those arms, as they are needed for practically every upper body movement we perform. We often take our 23 arm muscles for granted, until we reach a point where it suddenly become...
Published: 05/22/18
Intermittent fasting seems to be a good thing, new report suggests

Intermittent fasting seems to be a good thing, new report suggests

Going long hours without eating isn’t good for us, we are often told. Our bodies need fuel regularly. Otherwise, we may become lethargic, tired and hungry. Our thinking can become mushy, our ability to work, and even play, hampered.Not so fast.A new ...
Published: 05/22/18