The Cost of Doing ROI Business

Last year, Gloria Aslanidis asked Medical University Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina, for a copy of her father's medical record. The hospital duly provided her with a CD—for the tidy sum of $3,801.30. The charges were based on a per-page rate of 65 cents for the first 30 pages and 50 cents each for the remaining pages, figures that South Carolina established in a 1992 law, which also allows a maximum $15 clerical fee plus shipping costs and sales tax. In this case, the requested record totaled just shy of an impressive 7,000 pages, leading to the princely fee.

In light of the costly charge, Aslanidis contacted South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who proceeded to introduce legislation to update the state law regarding medical fees. "I think it's absurd in today's technological world that a patient would get charged 65 cents a page," Harrell said in an interview with the Charleston Post and Courier.

South Carolina isn't the only state that's been reexamining its medical fee rate structure. In 2013, the Vermont Association for Justice, formerly known as the Vermont Trial Lawyers Association, requested that a piece of state legislation include a study of the fees charged for copies of EMRs.

Vermont's law allows a custodian of health information to charge no more than a flat $5 fee or no more than 50 cents per page, whichever is greater, for providing copies of an individual's health care record. According to the Vermont Medical Society's Legislative Bulletin, the "trial lawyers believe that this amount is exorbitant when they receive a compact disc in response to a request for records."