What is a fair price to charge a consumer to provide them a copy of their records? That is a question I’ve been pondering since a friend of mine showed me the bill from the local Steward IDN which is owned by private equity fund, Cerebus.
My friend is switching doctors due to a change by her employer in health plans. As a result, she requested a copy of her records to bring with here to her new physician. Seems like a pretty simple, straight-forward request. Steward was more than happy to provide those 10 pages of records and following is the cost breakdown they wished to charge her:
Clerical fee: $18.04
Mailing cost: $1.16
Total Cost: $25.30
Two dollars and fifty cents a page – Outrageous!
When I asked for a full copy of my pet’s records, about 20pgs, the Vet was more than happy to oblige, for free. When I asked for full copy of my car repair records (5yrs worth) as I was selling the car, my local mechanic was more than happy to oblige, again for free. So why is that when one asks for a copy of their medical records, which frankly they already paid for in their office visit charges, a company like Cerebus/Steward feels they have the right to charge such an exorbitant sum? Creating such hurdles to a patient’s ability to access their own personal health information (PHI) does nothing to improve healthcare delivery. Its time to put an end to such charges once and for all.
Sad thing about this whole story though is that under Massachusetts statute, Steward is allowed to charge up to $25.00. They discounted the bill $0.30 and lowered the bill to $25.00 Needless to say, I advised my friend to ignore the bill.
John Moore is an IT Analyst at Chilmark Research, where this post was first published.