Legislation Would Make It Easier to Obtain Personal Medical Records

It is not easy getting your medical records. When you do get them, you will be charged even if you need them to see a specialist. When you apply for Long-Term Care or life insurance, it sometimes takes a long time to get the required records.

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Legislation Would Make It Easier to Obtain Personal Medical Records
2 Min Read April 18th, 2022

You may have noticed that your doctor spends as much time in front of the computer as they spend with you during an appointment. Everything you talk about, test results, diagnosis codes, medications, and procedures, are listed in your medical records.

Doctors use diagnosis codes in your medical records. These codes are a combination of letters and/or numbers assigned to a particular diagnosis, symptom, or procedure.

Seeing what is in your records can be difficult. Most medical records today are electronic and are sometimes available anywhere you see a doctor if they share the same electronic system.

Even if you apply for life insurance, Long-Term Care Insurance, or disability insurance, the company may order your medical records but often find obstacles in getting the needed information in a timely manner. There are often delays in the doctor or hospital releasing your information at your request. The insurance companies are charged for the records but often must wait for months to get them.

Sometimes, individuals are surprised when they find out what is actually in their records. New legislation would require health care providers to give patients access to their medical records at no cost at least once per year.

While you might expect an insurance company to be charged for obtaining your records, doctors and medical facilities will usually charge you as well. According to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), the medical records fees that doctor offices charge patients can be a financial burden for many people.

Individuals with a long medical history can incur thousands of dollars of charges for their medical record copies, often charged per page and per recipient. The GAO describes a situation in which one patient was charged over $100 for an electronic copy.

Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL) introduced the Medical Records Access Fairness Act, which would require health care providers to give patients access to their medical records at no cost at least once per year. Foster says information is essential for quality care. When patients see multiple specialists in different locations, having complete records can make it easier for a doctor to stay fully informed.

Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL)

Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL)

"Too often, the fees charged to access these records amount to thousands of dollars – something especially burdensome for patients with chronic diseases and complex medical histories. This common-sense bill would allow patients easier access to their medical records, removing an unreasonable financial burden and improving the health and well-being of many Americans," Rep. Foster said.

Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist and the Harold H. Hines Jr. professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, wrote an opinion piece on the NPR website, sharing the difficulties of obtaining your medical records.

Dr. Harlan Krumholz

Dr. Harlan Krumholz

"At a time when many insurers and health information technology companies are busily assembling databases of hundreds of millions of medical records, Americans find it difficult to get access to their own," he writes.

Krumholz says you should be prepared for each medical facility to have confusing rules, uninformed staff, and high costs to get your records.

The Medical Records Access Fairness Act is supported by numerous organizations, including the Chronic Disease Coalition, the National MS Society, the National Organization for Rare Disorders, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

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