Patients in Washington, D.C., have filed a lawsuit against two area hospitals alleging they were charged thousands of dollars to obtain medical records.
The plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit against MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and George Washington University Hospital.
They say the hospitals violated District of Columbia consumer protection laws by charging exorbitant amounts to obtain medical records.
According to the suit, patients in D.C. are entitled to a copy of their medical records within 30 days for a reasonable fee.
Federal law allows a provider to charge for the cost of labor for copying and preparing a summary, the cost of the paper and electronic media and postage. No other fee may be charged.
The couple, according to the lawsuit, requested an electronic copy of their child's birth record from MedStar Georgetown. The other patient requested an electronic health record for treatment he received.
The lawsuit alleges that the couple and the individual patient were charged a total of $1,167.88 and $1,559.26, respectively.
HealthPort, MedStar Georgetown's third-party vendor, allegedly informed the couple that records were available only on paper. In both cases, HealthPort charged a copying fee of 76 cents per page, a basic fee of $22.88 and a shipping and handling fee of $16.38.
HealthPort did not respond to an interview request.
After challenging the legality of the per-page fee, MedStar Georgetown's legal counsel responded, saying the hospital had offered an alternative for getting EHRs, “which was not acceptable to (the patients)," according to the suit.
Also listed in the suit was a man who received care from George Washington University Hospital and was hit with similar fees upon requesting his EHR.
He says he received a bill for $430.20, including copying fees for more than 500 pages of records.
The labor involved in making copies for records that already exist as an EHR is minimal, said Craig Briskin, a partner with Mehri & Skalet, one of the firms representing the patients. He says hospitals, who are given federal subsidizes offered to facilitate EHRs, should in turn ease the process of obtaining them.
In an e-mailed statement, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital said it is “committed to providing the highest quality of care to our patients, including providing them with their medical records at a reasonable cost. "