Question: Can you please help us get our medical records from the Honolulu Medical Group without having to pay for them ($43.98 — $42 plus tax)? In addition to the issue of the substantial cost ($87.96 for the two of us), we just do not think it is right that we should have to pay to obtain our own records. If we don’t pay they say they will destroy our records, and that will compromise our future medical care.
Question: I just found out that I have to pay to get my medical records from the Honolulu Medical Group. I don’t recall reading that they were going to cease operations. When did that happen?
Answer: Federal law allows medical providers to charge for making copies of medical records, but the fees have to be "reasonable" and based on actual costs, said Stephen Levins, executive director of the state Office of Consumer Protection.
Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, the fee should reflect the cost of copying the record, including supplies, labor and postage, if the copy is requested to be mailed.
Under HIPAA the fee is not to include costs associated with searching for and retrieving the requested information, Levins said.
Speaking generally and not directly about your situation, Levins said a flat fee would appear to be inconsistent with HIPAA’s requirement that fees should correlate to actual costs. For example, making a copy of one page is not as costly as copying 80 pages.
However, attorney James Wagner, who represents the Honolulu Medical Group, said the $42 fee reflects the "blended cost of producing a record" now that the medical group is no longer operating.
Wagner explained that the medical group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (reorganization) in November.
The case was converted to Chapter 7 bankruptcy (liquidation) in May, but ultimately was dismissed by the bankruptcy trustee because of insufficient funds and resources.
Honolulu Medical Group had ceased business by that time. It no longer had any employees, and all the doctors had left, Wagner said.
However, the last few remaining doctors at the medical group "stood up" to make sure that the 80,000 records accumulated over time were made available to patients.
"We used up the funds we had to pay as much as we could in advance" to contract a third party to handle contacting patients and distributing the records, Wagner said.
The $42 reflects not only the cost of producing the records and distributing them, but also monthly storage fees.
Paper documents are being stored with a records storage company, while electronic records are being kept by an IT provider, Wagner said. "Just to store the records is expensive."
Notification about the medical records was made for four consecutive Sundays via the newspaper, he said. In a month or so, postcards are to be sent to every patient on record.
Former patients who want a copy of a medical record from HMG are directed to the website www.honmed.com.
The website says all unclaimed records will be destroyed on July 11, 2011.
To whoever found my letter and mailed it for me. On Tuesday, Aug. 10, I lost a letter that contained a money order for my doctor. Some kindhearted person mailed the letter for me. I received a phone call two days later from my doctor’s office saying they had received it. I just wanted to thank whoever did this kind deed. — Jimmy Wall