Medical Records: Statute entitling patient one free copy means what it says one free copy and no charging! (Erikson vs. Gruner & Sims, COA, Pub. 5/17/2013)

Kentucky’s statute requires medical providers to provide their patients a free copy, but in the published decision of Eriksen PSC  vs. Gruner & Simms PLLC, the COA held in a unanimous decision written by Judge Acree that when the statute says to give a patient a free copy of his or her medical records that means one free copy, no charges, and includes providing to his or her attorney requesting that free copy.

The procedural history of this decision was a declaratory judgment action filed by the law firm against a chiropractor who insisted on charging for providing copies of his records.  The law firm filed the petition, the Jefferson Circuit Court (Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman) granted summary judgment in favor of the law firm’s request for a free copy, and Judge Acree and the COAKY affirmed.

Here is the decision:

490. CIVIL PROCEDURE. FREE COPY OF MEDICAL RECORDS
ERIKSEN, P.S.C. (WILLIAM C.) VS. GRUNER & SIMMS, PLLC
OPINION AFFIRMING
ACREE (PRESIDING JUDGE)
DIXON (CONCURS) AND THOMPSON (CONCURS)
2012-CA-000563-MR
TO BE PUBLISHED
JEFFERSON

ACREE, CHIEF JUDGE: William C. Eriksen, P.S.C. d/b/a Eriksen Chiropractic Centers, appeals from a summary judgment granted by the Jefferson Circuit Court to Gruner & Simms, PLLC.

This appeal concerns the interpretation of Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 422.317(1), which provides as follows:

Upon a patient’s written request, a hospital licensed under KRS Chapter 216B or a health care provider shall provide, without charge to the patient, a copy of the patient’s medical record. A copying fee, not to exceed one dollar ($1) per page, may be charged by the health care provider for furnishing a second copy of the patient’s medical record upon request either by the patient or the patient’s attorney or the patient’s authorized representative.

Gruner & Simms, PLLC, a law firm, filed a petition for declaratory relief in the Jefferson Circuit Court after Eriksen refused to provide Gruner with a free copy of one of its client’s medical records. Eriksen’s policy is outlined in a letter sent to one of Gruner’s attorneys:

Pursuant to Kentucky statute, we provide our patients one free copy of their medical records. This one free copy of records is provided to our patients in order to enable them to educate themselves with regard to their medical history.

All other persons including attorneys and authorized representatives requesting records on behalf of an Eriksen Chiropractic patient must first notify us in writing by mailed letter that they agree to pay $1.00 per page in copying fees associated with tendering the patent’s records. An invoice for these copying fees will be sent with the records after your letter agreeing to pay these fees for the specified patient is received by our office. Please be advised that due to the large volume of records requests received by our office, we cannot provide total records copying costs in advance.

Please tender a letter to the address above . . . agreeing to pay the copying fees associated with your records request in order to receive the records you desire.

(Emphasis in original.)

Eriksen filed a counter-petition, presenting an alternative interpretation of the statute and also challenging its constitutionality.1 The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Gruner on March 2, 2012. This appeal by Eriksen followed.

Furthermore, state government often passes laws that increase the cost of doing business. Whether health care providers factor into their pricing the possibility of incurring expenses associated with statutory compliance is a business decision the government usually does not make for a business. At least it has not in this case. These constitutional arguments, therefore, necessarily fail.

The order granting summary judgment is affirmed. ALL CONCUR.

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