How much should it cost to obtain copies of medical records so that they can be reviewed by the attorney of a patient who has a potential legal case? In recent years, some medical providers have attempted to charge $1.00 per page, no matter how many pages of records exist. Some attorneys believe that practice is unreasonable, and that it is either an intentional or unintentional impediment to a victim’s ability to have his or her case reviewed by an attorney. Consider that some hospital visits generate thousands of pages of records. If a patient suspects that he or she has been the victim of malpractice, and asks an attorney to review the circumstances, that attorney must be willing to invest thousands of dollars to have any idea of how to advise the potential client. Because very few cases can be ultimately pursued, the $1.00 per page practice results in many potential client’s being turned away, or being asked to cover the cost of record retrieval themselves. Of course, most people who have suffered a recent catastrophic event, are even less in a position to make a speculative record retrieval investment than their potential law firm.
In the case below, the Honorable Julie H. O’Kane considered the applicability of Rule 64B8 of the Florida Administrative Code to an attorneys request for copies of medical records. That provision limits the amount a medical provider can charge a patient or governmental agency to $1.00 per page for the first 25 pages and .25 cents for all pages exceeding that number. However, hospitals and third party corporations which are in the business of gathering records for a profit, claim that attorneys who are asking for records on behalf of a patient are not entitled to that limitation, and attempt to charge $1.00 per page to attorneys requesting records. That practice is employed even when the records are provided on a computer disc.
Judge O’Kane issued a ruling that will provide support for those challenging that practice by finding that a patient’s attorney acting on the patients behalf is entitled to the same limitation on charges as the patient and mandated that the corporations charge no more than $1.00 per page for the first 25 pages, and .25 cents for anything above 25 pages. The Court found support for her ruling in Section 456.057, Florida Statutes which mandates that records be provided to patients upon request.
Although Judge O’Kane’s ruling does not have the same precedential value as that of an appellate decision, we believe legal practitioners and their clients will be well served by including a copy of her decision along with a check in an amount consistent with her findings when a medical provider demands $1.00 per page for all medical records.