You may be surprised to learn that you are not the owner of your medical records. Under Georgia law, those records are the property of the medical provider. You are, however, entitled upon request and authorization to a copy of those records.
When you request a copy of your medical records from a medical provider, two sets of laws apply:
- Georgia law (O.C.G.A. §31-33-1, et seq.)
- Federal law (frequently referred to a HIPAA).
This blog will focus on what Georgia law says about getting your medical records. If you want to know more about what HIPAA says, go to http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/consumers/medicalrecords.html.
What does Georgia law say about getting your medical records?
At one time Georgia law did not have to specify what could be charged for production of medical records. Doctors and hospitals charged a reasonable fee for copying them and providing them to patients.
Over time doctors and hospitals began contracting those duties out to for-profit companies that charged patients sometimes exorbitant rates for records. In one reported case the amount charged by Smart Corp. (now HealthPort) ranged from $1.04 to $7.60 per page, Cotton et al. v. Med-Cor Health Information Solutions, Inc., et al.,221 Ga. App. 609 (1996).
Medical records are important to patients for many different reasons. The cost to obtain them must be something patients can afford. The Georgia legislature recognized this and placed statutory limits on what could be charged.
What is the current problem with the medical records law?
Producers of records have been very creative trying to avoid those limits. They take the position that records produced from microfilm are not covered by the limits. They regularly charge over $1.50 per page for records printed from microfilm. Also, they sometimes provide records in electronic format (either by allowing patients to download the records from their websites or providing the records on a CD). When they do this, many still charge the paper price for producing them!
For the last two years, Ann-Margaret Perkins has spearheaded an effort to change Georgia law to limit record producers to charging a fair price for duplicating medical records. She helped draft legislation that was recently introduced by Representative Kevin Cooke in the Georgia House of Representatives as HB 321.
Please contact your State Representative and State Senator and ask him or her to support this important legislation. If you don’t know who to contact, click to find your state representative or state senator.