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Board of Medicine committee votes to hike cost of medical records

Florida rules allow health providers to charge patients $1 per page for the first 25 pages of patient health records, and 25 cents per page after that. A proposed change would allow $1 charges for every page, including print and electronic copies.
Florida rules allow health providers to charge patients $1 per page for the first 25 pages of patient health records, and 25 cents per page after that. A proposed change would allow $1 charges for every page, including print and electronic copies.
Published Dec. 5, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — Patients seeking print or electronic copies of their medical records could see their per-page costs quadruple under a proposal endorsed Thursday by a key committee of the Florida Medical Board.

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 proposed change would allow $1 charges for every page, including print and electronic copies.

A 150-page medical record that now costs $56.25 would cost up to $150 under the new rule.

Doctors groups and the copying companies support the increase, saying it's long overdue and reflects the cost of reviewing and producing sensitive health information.

"Our profession is being decimated," Dr. Chris Pittman, a physician with a solo practice in Tampa, told the committee Thursday. "It's still a business, and you've got to make ends meet."

But consumer groups and trial lawyers argue the new price tag hurts patients, while benefitting the medical records industry.

"That's arbitrary and capricious," Tampa lawyer David Caldevilla testified.

Still, don't expect to see that higher price tag any time soon. The committee must hold an additional hearing in February, and opponents of the increase could appeal.

The proposed change has lingered with the board's rules committee since summer 2013. It has been the source of intense scrutiny, and supporters and critics have flooded the board with written comments, including 75 letters since October.

Meeting at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon on Thursday, some committee members expressed frustration at how long they've been dealing with the issue — and they were eager to support the proposal and get it to the full board for its review.

Indeed, when the committee learned from its attorney that a change it made at a previous meeting would trigger additional hearings, members decided to go with an older version. And the committee voted against seeking a new economic impact study of the proposal, even though its attorney warned that a recent court ruling could open the old study up to a legal challenge. Later in the meeting, committee members reluctantly reversed that decision.

"All we're doing is going in circles," committee chairman and physician Zach Zachariah said.

The proposal, if ultimately approved, only affects records for doctors' practices. Hospitals have already been allowed to charge $1 per page to patients.

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

Contact Jodie Tillman at jtillman@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @jtillmantimes.

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