New S.C. law lim­its fees for med­i­cal records

Modern Healthcare - - REGIONAL NEWS - —Bob Her­man

In an­other change to a med­i­cal pol­icy with lit­tle con­sis­tency across the coun­try, South Carolina now lim­its how much health­care providers can charge pa­tients for their med­i­cal records.

The is­sue gained steam af­ter the Post and Courier news­pa­per in Charleston, S.C., re­ported a hospi­tal charged one of its pa­tients more than $3,800 to burn a copy of her fa­ther’s med­i­cal records onto a CD.

Un­der the federal Health In­sur­ance Porta­bil­ity and Ac­count­abil­ity Act of 1996, providers can charge pa­tients for the “rea­son­able costs for copy­ing and mail­ing the records.” Those rates vary widely from state to state. A South Carolina law im­ple­mented in June amends a 1992 state law and places ad­justed caps on med­i­cal record fees—and brings dig­i­tal ver­sions into the fold.

For elec­tronic copies, South Carolina hos­pi­tals and physi­cians can charge no more than $150, re­gard­less of the num­ber of times a pa­tient has been ad­mit­ted. For paper du­pli­cates, fees can­not ex­ceed $200 per ad­mis­sion. A spokes­woman for the South Carolina Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion said the group sup­ported the bill.

High fees for med­i­cal records are not un­com­mon, said Tom Lamb, a per­sonal in­jury at­tor­ney in Wilm­ing­ton, N.C., whose firm main­tains a state-by-state list of poli­cies. Providers say the fees are jus­ti­fied be­cause of la­bor and re­trieval costs, but pa­tients of­ten don’t know the pol­icy for their state. And there al­ready is great vari­ance among states for what providers can charge.

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