Medical Records and Bills Laws in Georgia
Georgia Medical Records Laws
As a personal injury attorney in Georgia, I obtain medical records and medical bills in every automobile accident or injury case. In this article, I explain the laws on medical records in Georgia including whether a doctor has to give you your medical records, how to get your medical records, the cost of your medical records, which medical records you are entitled to, and more.
Does a Doctor Have to Give Me My Medical Records in Georgia?
Yes. Federal law says so under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). You also are entitled to them under Georgia law, specifically, O.C.G.A. §31-33-2(a)(2). A more technical answer is that under Georgia law, the physician/doctor owns the records, but the law requires a physician to provide a current copy of the record to the patient under most circumstances.
How Do I Get My Medical Records in Georgia?
The easiest way is to just call the billing/records office for your doctor or hospital and ask what their preferred procedure is. Some may accept an email request. Some require you fax or mail a request. You can always just go down to the office and order them, but they may not be able to produce them immediately to you.
Your physician’s office will often ask you to sign a written authorization to obtain the records. Please read the authorization with caution. They might put in additional language that could create a lien against your personal injury case. As a personal injury attorney, I never grant liens voluntarily, although in certain instances it is necessary. If the authorization has anything in it that does anything beyond giving the authority to copy and produce the records, you probably want to have an attorney to review it and you may want to use a different authorization.
Why Do Medical Records Cost So Much in Georgia?
Georgia law gives the maximums that doctors may charge for searching for and copying the records. In my experience, they almost always charge the maximum. These maximum copy costs as of July 1, 2017 are:
A search, retrieval and other admin cost up to $25.88 plus the copy costs;
A certification fee up to $9.70 per record;
The actual cost of postage incurred;
If you are getting paper copies, the medical provider may charge up to $0.97 per page for the first 20 pages, $0.83 per page for pages 21-100, and $0.66 per page for pages over 100; and
For records not in paper form, e.g. electronic copy, the provider can charge reasonable cost of production.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A §31-33-3, effective July 1, of each year, the costs related to medical record retrieval, certification and copy may be adjusted in accordance with the medical component of the consumer price index. Beginning July 1, 2015, the Department of Community Health (DCH) will be the state entity responsible for calculating the annual inflation adjustment and publishing the revised rates for medical records retrieval. You can find their updated list link here. The doctor is allowed to ask for payment up front.
There is no cost if the records are given to a doctor from a referring doctor for the continuance of medical treatment. The doctor may charge the actual cost of copying of an X-ray, which includes materials, supplies, labor, and overhead.
Federal Law Under the HITECH ACT Allows Cheaper Medical Records Production.
See my post on the HITECH ACT and how it can save you money on obtaining your records. I also provide a sample HITECH Medical Records Request form for your convenience.
What Medical Records Am I Entitled to in Georgia?
Pretty much every record associated with your treatment including your bills. However, the physician may choose to only release a summary or portion of the record if the doctor reasonably believes that release of the information in the entire record would harm the patient’s emotional or physical well-being, the emotional or physical well-being of another person who has given information about the patient to the physician, or where release of the information is otherwise prohibited by law. Even in this situation, they still have to produce the entire record to your attorney. An unreasonable refusal to release the complete medical record could result in a sanction against the doctor by the Board of Medical Examiners.
Can I Still Get My Records If I Haven’t Paid My Bill in Full?
Yes. Georgia law explicitly says so.
How Long Does It Take to Get My Medical Records in Georgia?
The law does not give a deadline. Usually, I get the records back within a couple weeks of my request. Hospitals usually take longer than a doctor’s office. Sometimes, we have to follow up multiple times with the medical provider, and in rare instances, we have to threaten civil action. We’ve never been unable to ultimately secure the records, as the law is on your and our side.
How Long Must a Doctor Hold My Medical Records in Georgia?
Ten (10) years from the date the record was created. After this period expires, the doctor can destroy the records.
Are My Medical Records Private?
Your medical records are your PRIVATE medical records! The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires medical professionals to have systems and safeguards in place to ensure that patient information isn’t released to someone other than the patient or someone who the patient has authorized to receive the records. Doctors can’t sell your records either, except for very limited situations. It is not just records; doctors and their staff can’t speak about your case with anyone either.
Do I Need My Records If I’ve Been Injured in an Accident?
Yes. In every personal injury or automobile accident case, you have to prove your damages. Your medical records and bills are a very important part of your related damages to the accident as well as lost wages and your pain and suffering.
Contact Me For A Free Consultation If You Have Been In an Accident and Are Having Problems Obtaining Your Medical Records
If you’ve been involved in an accident where you were not at fault, call me or fill out my form for a free consultation. I can help you obtain fair compensation for your injuries and damages. By calling (404) 610-4429, you will ensure you will receive proper representation against by the at-fault driver and the insurance companies.