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UPMC Over Charging Patients for Copies of Medical Records

Posted on Feb 08, 2010

If you've ever tried to get copies of your medical records from UPMC or other Pennsylvania hospitals, you know you'll need to hand over alot of money before the hospital hands over copies of your medical records.  In 2009, for example, UPMC and other Pennsylvania hospitals charged a flat "retrieval fee" of $19.80 and a whopping $1.33 per page for the first 20 pages of your medical records, and 99 cents per page for the next 40 pages.  Based on these charges, 80 pages of medical records will cost you a hefty $86.00!

Nowadays, most hospital medical records including UPMC's are created and stored on computer.  Thanks to the computerization of medical records, the actual cost of copying medical records has decreased dramatically.  While copying medical records used to require retrieving and photocopying each page by hand, today, providing copies of computer-stored medical records is as easy as pressing a single key on a computer keypad.  However, while the cost of copying medical records has plummeted over the last five years thanks to computer automation, UPMC and other Pennsylvania hospitals have continued each year to increase the prices they charge patients for copies of their medical records.

To stop the price-gouging for medical records, five class action lawsuits including one against UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside were filed by Berger & Lagnese in Allegheny County in July 2009.  These suits were filed on behalf of all Pennsylvania patients and their lawyers who've been charged exorbitant fees for copies of their hospital medical records.  The aim of these lawsuits is to get UPMC and other Pennsylvania hospitals and their records-copying agents to limit their medical records copying fees to their actual and reasonable (and ever-diminishing) costs incurred in copying the records.

On February 4, 2010, the Honorable Stanton Wettick of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ruled that under Pennsylvania law, the copying fees that UPMC and other Pennsylvania hospitals (and their records-copying agents) may charge patients is limited to the actual and reasonable expenses incurred in making the copies.  Therefore, if the cost of copying medical records has come down thanks to the computerization of medical records, UPMC and the other Pennsylvania hospitals must pass this cost savings on to Pennsylvania's patients in the form of lower prices for copies of medical records.

As a result of Judge Wettick's ruling, the class action plaintiffs will now have a chance to find out, one, how much it has really cost UPMC and other Pennsylvania hospitals to copy patient medical records over the last five years; and two, how much in excess of this cost UPMC and other Pennsylvania hospitals have illegally charged and pocketed for requested medical records.

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