The Personal Injury Primer

Medical Records Should Not Be Money Pits

I opened the attached images and immediately put down my mug—Folgers cup #9 was unlikely to do the trick at that point anyway. Reading that your client had third degree burns on 30% of her body versus seeing your client with 30% of her body torched are fundamentally different. I then opened another attachment. This one harrowing for an entirely different set of reasons.

An invoice from her provider for the applicable medical records totaled $677.16. That amount was due before those (electronic) records would be released. I scanned the document with more precision, checking to make sure there wasn’t an erroneous digit added somewhere. There wasn’t. Converting the already-generated records onto a CD would cost this client nearly $700.00. I immediately drafted a letter to the provider citing various federal codes and enactments designed to prevent these charges. Several weeks later, I received a generic rejection letter citing other circumventing measures in response to my own citations.

This cat and mouse game between individuals attempting to obtain their own medical records and providers charging obscene amounts has become routine. It shouldn’t be. There’s a scene in the movie Erin Brockovich where during a strident (albeit largely true) outburst, Julia Roberts’ character declares “all you lawyers do is complicate situations that aren't complicated.” This should not be complicated. Your Medical records are your property. The Commonwealth of Kentucky agrees: a law on the books requires a patient receive a free copy of the patient’s medical records.[1] Ohio should do the same.

Most clients do not know about these charges until it’s too late. I understand that there will always be the specious “business” argument but sometimes, excessive charges are unconscionable. Individuals should not be gouged after they suffer catastrophic burns or serious medical errors or routine visits. During this time of extreme polarity, we all need common ground more than ever. This makes sense for everyone. If you are currently reading this, you have a medical history. Inflation is bad enough - why have yet another area where charges are wildly and gratuitously inflated?