Question: Regarding the Honolulu Medical Group saying it planned to destroy all unclaimed records on July 11, 2011 (Kokua Line, Aug. 18 and 19): Aren’t medical records supposed to be kept for at least seven years, under Hawaii law?
Answer: In this case, no.
Before ceasing operations, under Section 622-58 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, a medical provider is required to retain and preserve the records for a specified time, subject to the approval of the state Department of Health.
The department was notified of Honolulu Medical Group’s plan for the final disposition of unclaimed patient records, said spokeswoman Janice Okubo.
"As we understand from HMG, remaining assets of the company are insufficient to continue to maintain the records in accordance with the provisions of HRS 622-58," she said.
Given HMG’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding, which ultimately was dismissed for lack of assets, the group’s course of action was to follow the requirements of Section 351 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, Okubo said.
Section 351 says if a health care business begins a Chapter 7, 9 or 11 bankruptcy case and the trustee determines it does not have the funds to pay for the storage of patient records as required under federal or state law, then, among other things:
» The trustee must publish a notice in at least one "appropriate" newspaper that patient records not claimed by a date that is 365 days from the notification date will be destroyed.
» During the first 180 days, a "prompt" attempt has to be made to directly notify each patient of the plan.
The Health Department "has concurred with (HMG’s) proposal as an acceptable alternative," Okubo said.
Question: Regarding the gift certificates offered by KITV through its Half-Off Hawaii program: My understanding is that gift certificates are good for two years from the date of issuance. However, these are being offered for as short as six months. Is that legal?
Answer: The new Hawaii law, which took effect July 1, expanded the expiration date for gift certificates to five years from two.
However, if the certificates are part of a promotional program, they are not covered by the law and the five-year requirement.
"First of all, to fit the definition of a gift certificate, it means the issuer has received payment for the full banked value" of a future purchase, explained Stephen Levins, executive director of the state Office of Consumer Protection. That would mean that if the certificate is worth $20, someone paid $20 for it.
Second, if a gift certificate is used in conjunction with a loyalty award or promotional program, it also would be excluded from the law, he said.
Half-Off Hawaii is a promotional program, run by a third-party vendor, in which the end user pays for half the worth of a certificate, said Michael Rosenberg, president and general manager of KITV.
However, after receiving our inquiry, KITV contacted the vendor and "going forward, all our offers will have expirations of two years," he said.
To Gideon (not sure of spelling), a young man, for coming along and offering to help us cut down tall, overgrown grass and shrubs on the side of a busy street on Aug. 29 in Wahiawa. Someone who promised to help us was a no-show. Gideon made what would have been a big job for us look so easy, and he did it all! His mama raised him well. Thank you very much, Gideon. — Lees and Sister