Limits on Charges for Medical Records

April 19, 2018

The cost of obtaining copies of a client’s or claimant’s medical records can be significant for lawyers representing an injured party, as well as lawyers representing insurers. The statute governing access to patient health care records, Wis. Stat. § 146.83, establishes the current charges that may be assessed for obtaining copies of those records. In addition to the per page cost for copies, it allows providers to charge $8.69 for certification of the records and a $21.73 retrieval fee. Certification and retrieval fees can only be charged if the requestor is not the patient or a person authorized in writing by the patient to obtain records.

In Moya v. Aurora Healthcare and Healthport Technologies, 2017 WI 45, 375 Wis. 2d 38, 894 N.W.2d 405, the Wisconsin Supreme Court addressed the question of whether a lawyer authorized by a client to obtain copies of their medical records is exempt from paying retrieval and certification charges. Moya was pursuing a claim for personal injury and hired an attorney to assist her. Moya signed a HIPAA release form authorizing the attorney to obtain her health care records.

The medical record retrieval service who processed the request charged $30.42 for certification and retrieval. Moya declined to pay, arguing that her attorney was a person authorized in writing by the patient to obtain copies of records under Wis. Stat. § 146.81(5).

The case ultimately reached the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which concluded that based on the plain language of the statute, Moya’s attorney was a “person authorized in writing by the patient” to receive copies of the records. The end result is that attorneys who are authorized in writing by their clients to receive copies of their records are not required to pay the $21.73 retrieval fee or the $8.69 certification fee, although they must pay the per page charges authorized by statute. While the decision dealt expressly with an authorization provided by a client to his or her attorney, there is nothing in the decision that would suggest it could not apply with equal force to authorizations provided by a patient to an insurance company or their defense attorneys.