Medical records can be expensive. Some hospitals and doctors view them as profit centers and charge hefty fees for them.
That’s why the federal government stepped in, in 2009. The HITECH Act established a federal right of access to medical records and generally capped the fees that doctors and hospitals can charge for medical records at $6.50. You can read about that here.
Plus, the HITECH Act regulations put out by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) allow patients to request records at the HITECH rate and instruct them to be mailed directly to a third party, including an attorney. This makes sense because, in the end, the cost for medical records obtained by a patient’s attorney will eventually get passed along to the patient, for instance, when there’s a recovery in a medical malpractice case.
I can’t think of anyone who reacted more negatively to the HITECH Act than the medical records outsourcing companies like Ciox and ScanStat. Many physician offices and hospitals outsource their medical records departments to these money-grubbing companies that profited handsomely under the lax pre-HITECH laws and regulations.
At Painter Law Firm, we handle medical records requests for our client continuously. Since the HITECH Act, this has involved negotiating back and forth with Ciox and ScanStat, among others, to make sure that they were charging the correct fees. We’ve had many instances when medical records retrieval companies would ignore a HITECH Act request and bill at their regular sky-high rate, only to reduce the charges to the correct rate when challenged. Clearly, they don’t like this law!
Ciox took it one step further, though, and filed federal lawsuits challenging the HHS HITECH Act regulations. They eventually got a federal judge to accept their argument, in what’s certainly a blow to patient rights.
In the case styled Ciox Health, LLC v. Alex Azar, Case No. 18-cv-00040 (APM), U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, a January 23, 2020 decision declares the HITECH Act third-party directive unlawful.
Based on this memorandum opinion, written by Obama-appointed district judge Amit Mehta, the reduced or capped rate for medical records (which is typically $6.50) only applies to providing an electronic copy of a patient’s medical records directly to the patient.
Based on this unfortunate decision, patients have lost the federally protected right to order records at the HITECH Act rate and send them directly to third parties, such as their attorneys. This will undoubtedly line the pockets of vendors like Ciox and ScanStat with hefty fees, but it will cost injured patients and their families dearly in the form of increased case expenses when they seek justice for medical malpractice or personal injury cases.
Our team at Painter Law Firm has already come up with new work-around procedures. This new federal court decision makes things less convenient for plaintiffs and their attorneys, but we believe it’s still important for clients to take advantage of the HITECH Act rates for their cases.
If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor hospital or medical care, then contact a top-rated Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating your potential case.