Monday, December 18, 2017
Opinion

Column: Stop cost hike for medical records

While the nation watches the launch of Obamacare, it's easy to overlook other health care news. But Floridians should also be paying attention to a major issue in our own state: an industry push to dramatically increase the cost for receiving a copy of your medical records. • The Florida Board of Medicine is meeting in Orlando this week to decide on a request for a statewide fee increase by HealthPort Technologies, LLC, an industry leader in the business of copying medical records. I am writing to urge the board to maintain the current allowable charges for such copies.

Today, to receive a copy of your medical records, it costs Floridians $1 per page for the first 25 pages and then 25 cents for each additional page. The suggested rule change would increase the cost to $1 for every page.

HealthPort has yet to show why there is a need to increase this cost to the consumer. Indeed, it appears these industry representatives are simply trying to increase the cost because they think they can get away with it.

Looking at what other states allow the industry to charge for copying medical records, one is hard-pressed to find a state that charges as much as the Florida Board of Medicine is being asked to allow here in Florida.

As an example, a Georgia consumer would pay a base fee of $117 to receive copies of 200 pages of medical records. If the Florida Board of Medicine allows the rule change, the same number of pages would cost $200 in our state. And in Alabama, getting copies of the same records would cost $62.50. Even with a search fee of $5 and mailing costs, the total in Alabama is nowhere near the $200 cost being sought in Florida.

Increasing the cost for copies would put Florida at the high end for these charges nationally: At the opposite end of the list is Kentucky, which provides that a consumer can get a copy of his or her medical records for free. The only state I have found in my research that would clearly charge more than Florida is Minnesota, allowing consumers to be charged a whopping $1.30 per page.

Consumers request copies of their medical records for many reasons — parents need copies to enroll their kids in school, camp and extracurricular activities; the elderly need copies for health care providers; low-income consumers need copies to qualify for assistance programs. Though not required by law, your health care navigator, under Obamacare, may be able to find you a better insurance price after confidentially reviewing a copy of your medical records. At some point, we all will need copies of our medical records.

There are many quality doctors out there who follow the suggestion of the Florida Board of Medicine urging "physicians to provide their patients a copy of their medical records, upon request, without cost, especially when the patient is economically disadvantaged."

But for doctors who cannot do this or for consumers who may need additional copies of their records at different times, it is important that the fee for copying be fair and reasonable.  I am not sure that the current fee is fair to the consumer, but it is certainly more reasonable than what HealthPort is proposing.  As an advocate for consumers, I hope that the Florida Board of Medicine will agree

Alice Vickers is an attorney who lobbies on consumer protection issues for Florida Consumer Action Network and other nonprofits. She wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

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