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The Medical Records Rip-Off

Medical records are absolutely essential to someone like me if I am representing an injured person. The medical records often tell the tale of the extent of the injuries, the amount of the pain, etc. It is therefore almost impossible to represent someone adequately without obtaining copies of all of the medical records from all of the treatment received following the injury, and he usually copies of medical records going back at least five years before the injury in order to be able to compare the person's condition before and after the incident.

When I started practicing law in the mid-1970s it was a fairly simple process to get copies of a client's medical records. A short letter to the medical provider along with a medical authorization form, and the records in question would be produced within a week or two, usually for a charge of between $.10 a page and $.25 a page, which at that time for some relationship to the actual cost of photocopying. However, commencing in the early 1980s companies called "records retrieval services" sprang up. They went to medical providers and entered into agreements with them saying that they were the exclusive source for copies of any medical records from that medical provider. Armed with these exclusive contracts they instantly began charging one dollar or more per page, plus a retrieval fee of $15-$18, plus sales tax, plus postage. It is important to note that no value was added. These are the exact same records that were being copied for $.10 a page before they claim along.

Since that time, while the cost of photocopying has gone down dramatically, the price of getting copies of medical records has continued to escalate. Charges of $1.25 a page or not unusual. Because the client ins up paying for these costs out of their share of the settlement, this sort of nonsense easily costs clients hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in every case.

Fortunately, the United States Department Of Health and Human Services has passed rules which took effect recently as part of the HIPAA and HITECH acts. These new rules and regulations prohibit medical providers or these records retrieval services from charging retrieval fee's or making a profit by selling patient's medical records back to the patient. They are now restricted to charging for the actual cost incurred in either making the photocopies or transferring the medical records on to a CD, DVD, or flash drive. And they can charge postage. All it takes to accomplish this is a letter from the patient, signed by the patient, directing that the records be copied in an electronic format and delivered to the patient's lawyer.

These new rules and regulations will save injured people in Minnesota millions of dollars in the coming years.

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