State Supreme Court to weigh medical record fee disclosure

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The state Supreme Court is going to consider if health care providers -- including UPMC -- and their records-reproducing proxies must disclose their "actual and reasonable" costs of producing charts and records.

Petitioners Wayne M. Chiurazzi Law Inc., doing business as Chiurazzi & Mengine, and David A. Neely want to bring a class-action lawsuit against the UPMC health system, alleging that UPMC and the private company that handles medical records requests for UPMC -- MRO Corp. -- charge more than the actual costs of obtaining medical records.

The petitioners had asked the court to consider if the Medical Records Act requires "medical records reproducers to disclose their estimated actual and reasonable expenses of reproducing the charts or records, and to limit their copying charges to these amounts or the statutory ceiling rates, whichever is less."

In August, a divided state Superior Court panel ruled that health care providers or their records-reproducing proxies can base their charges for providing hard copies of medical records on the maximum charges spelled out under state law.

James M. Pietz, of Pietz Law Office in Pittsburgh, and Paul A. Lagnese and David M. Paul, of Berger & Lagnese in Pittsburgh, are representing the petitioners.

There are several other class-action lawsuits in which plaintiffs want to allege that health care providers and their medical records reproduction agents violate the Medical Records Act by failing to disclose and charge their estimated actual and reasonable costs of copying patient-requested medical records.

The Superior Court majority of Judges Jack A. Panella and Jacqueline O. Shogan held that the calculation of estimated actual and reasonable expenses for paper copies is not required by the statute, and that the statutory schedule creates safe harbor rates for the estimated actual and reasonable expenses of producing such paper copies.

Senior Judge Robert E. Colville said in dissent the plain language of the statute sets a cap on the amounts that patients can be charged.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. had denied MRO's preliminary objections to the class-action complaint.

MRO Corp.'s lawyer, Carl A. Solano of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis in Philadelphia, said that if the Medical Records Act in fact required that the charged costs be limited to out-of-pocket expenses, his client would go out of business.

Mr. Solano said it will be good for the state Supreme Court to clarify what the statute means.

The act originally allowed a health care provider to charge up to $15 for searching for records; $1 per page for the first 20 pages of hard copies; 75 cents per page for hard copies of 21 through 60 pages; 25 cents per page for hard copies of more than 60 pages; $1.50 per page for copies from microfilm; and the actual cost of postage, shipping or delivery.

The law allows the amounts that may be charged to be adjusted annually based on the consumer price index, so the amounts charged have since changed.


Amaris Elliott-Engel: aelliott-engel@alm.com or 215-557-2354. To read more articles like this, visit www.thelegalintelligencer.com .


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