- With the advent of EHRs, the sharing of electronic medical records with patients has supposedly gotten easier. However, things get dicey when it comes to the price of procuring those records at the patient’s request.
A recent class action lawsuit against Medstar Georgetown University Hospital (MGUH) and George Washington University Hospital (GWUH) has called into question the practice of charging fees for medical records. According to the lawsuit, three plaintiffs are suing the hospitals for allegedly charging excess fees for making copies from EHRs.
The plaintiffs -- Lincoln Hunter, Alexander Borbley, and Garrett and Christine Gambino on behalf of their minor son R.G. -- allege that the hospitals charged excess fees for making copies of their health records.
The first two plaintiffs, Hunter and the Gambinos, allege that they requested their health records from MGUH in electronic form in accordance with HIPAA regulations. However, the hospital allegedly told them that they did not have the capability to share their records electronically, so they would be receiving them in paper form.
The hospital then reportedly sent the Gambinos an invoice for $1167.88, with charges including a per page fee of 76 cents for approximately 1500 pages, a “basic fee” of $22.88, and a shipping and handling fee of $16.38.
Hunter also received an invoice totalling to $1559.26, including that per page fee of 76 cents for approximately 2000 pages, a “Basic Fee” of $22.88, and a shipping and handling fee of $16.38.
A similar story allegedly goes for Borbely, who claims he submitted a request for his medical records from GWUH according to HIPAA regulations. The hospital allegedly responded with an invoice of $32.32, including a fee of $5.32 for seven pages of records, a “basic fee” of $22.88, a handling fee of $1, a shipping fee of $1.42, and a sales tax of $1.70.
The plaintiffs and their legal counsel claim that it is a violation of HIPAA guidelines to charge such excess fees. According to HIPAA regulations, healthcare providers are only allowed to charge for the labor related to procuring medical records to share with patients, and not a per page fee. Healthcare providers are also allowed to charge the price of a CD or flash drive on which electronic medical records may be uploaded.
“A provider cannot deny you a copy of your records because you have not paid for the services you have received. Even so, a provider may charge for the reasonable costs for copying and mailing the records. The provider cannot charge you a fee for searching for or retrieving your records,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services website.
The plaintiffs cite HIPAA as well as statements from the Department of Health and Human Services stating that providers may only charge reasonable costs for medical records. The plaintiffs allege that the invoices they received were not reasonable.
According to the lawsuit, the defense -- MGUH and GHUH -- claims that they must charge for the electronic storage of the medical records until the plaintiffs download the records because they are “essentially storing the medical record for you until you are done using it.”
However, the plaintiffs claim that their charges are still exorbitant. They allege that charging a per page fee for “storing” the records is excessive, as storing 50 pages is no more cumbersome than storing 100 pages.
The plaintiffs seek an injunction on this practice, according to the lawsuit, ending the providers’ alleged practice of overcharging patients for medical records. Additionally, the plaintiffs are seeking financial compensation for the fees.