To wait or not to wait?
Questions arise as to whether or not to immediately pay $20/patient fee PVMC is charging to transfer medical records
October 10, 2018
Following the announcement of the closure of Platte Valley Medical Clinic (PVMC) many residents went to PVMC to request a copy of their records, or that their records be transferred to Health Management Services, LLC. Upon arriving at the clinic, however, some patients were surprised to learn that PVMC was charging $20 to obtain their records. This cost of $20 per patient records transfer has been cited as a hardship for larger families, costing $100 for a family of five.
A three-page form available at PVMC asked patients for authorization to "please include a check of $20 to cover costs to obtain your records or include the completed credit card authorization below" for authorization to use and disclose medical records and further informed patients that omission of any information or payment would result in delays.
According to Wyoming State Statute 35-2-607, it is stated that a hospital, or health care facility, may "charge a reasonable fee, not to exceed the hospital's actual cost for providing the health care information under this section, and is not required to honor an authorization until the fee is paid."
Carbon County Commissioner Sue Jones spoke to the Saratoga Sun on Thursday and stated that she had contacted the Wyoming Board of Medicine. In a subsequent email, Jones stated "By law a provider can charge a 'reasonable' fee for processing a medical records request. I was advised that the standard used by the Board of Medicine for records fees is $2 for the first page and 10 cents for each additional page thereafter."
The Sun reached out to Kevin Bohnenblust, executive director of the Wyoming Board of Medicine, on Monday. Bohnenblust informed the Sun that a provider could charge a reasonable fee and the Board of Medicine didn't have an actual rule on what should be charged for records. According to the executive director, the fees mentioned by Jones pertain to photocopies of records from the Board of Medicine. Those fees are listed in Chapter 1, Section 8 of the Wyoming Board of Medicine's Rules and Regulations.
While the cost of $20 for records may be daunting to some residents, especially those on a fixed or limited income, Chapter 3, Section 4(e) of the Rules and Regulations state "a physician may establish reasonable charges and charge a patient for the actual costs incurred in responding to a patient's requests for copies of any portion of a patient's medical record." It goes on to read "the patient requesting medical records is responsible for payment of all such charges; however, a patient shall not be denied a summary or a copy of requested medical records because of inability to pay."
Jones told the Sun that her advice to Valley residents and other patients of PVMC would be to wait until either HMS took over management and brought in a provider or patients found a new provider to request their records provider to provider.
"Some of us have a literal lifetime of records at the clinic," said Jones. "It is best to have your next provider request the records they need from Dr. Kaiser."
Finally, as was reported on the Saratoga Sun website on Friday, the initial date of Oct. 19 published in the Sept. 25 edition of the Rawlins Times was incorrect and an error that Times legals and classifieds representative, Shawn Therrian, told the Sun was hers. The correct date, published on Oct. 3, is Oct. 24. The Sun also spoke with Bohnenblust about the legal notice and was informed that Chapter 3, Section 5(b) of the Rules and Regulations came down to an issue of word usage, namely the difference between "should" and "shall."
The section, which covers termination of physician-patient relationship and closure of practice, states "any physician licensed by the board who desires to relocate or close a medical practice should notify patients of such termination ... by causing to be published once during each week for four consecutive weeks, in the newspaper of greatest circulation in each county ... the physician practices."
According to Bohnenblust, the use of "should" instead of "shall" makes the section a suggestion rather than a requirement. During the conversation with the Sun, the executive director stated that it appeared to the Wyoming Board of Medicine that Kaiser was acting in good faith and was following the Board's rules and regulations to the best of his abilities.