MultiCare, vendor sued over charges for copies of medical records

Lawyers for a Pierce County woman contend in a lawsuit that MultiCare Health System is employing a vendor that charges illegal and excessive fees for providing patients with copies of their medical records.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Pauline Dickman asks a judge to stop MultiCare and its vender, IOD Inc., from continuing the practice and also seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Dickman’s attorneys, Ashton Dennis and Loren Cochran, also filed notice with the court that they hope to have the lawsuit declared a class action.

“It is believed that there are hundreds of individuals who have requested medical bills, health information, records and (protected health information) from IOD via the federal regulations ..., and it has blatantly disregarded those regulations and continued to charge excess amounts for the records to ‘deliver a competitive advantage’ for its client, MultiCare ...,” the lawsuit states.

MultiCare spokeswoman Maura Hallam provided a written statement Friday.

“The Dickman lawsuit concerns how much plaintiffs’ lawyers are required to pay for medical records,” the statement reads. “The question turns on the interpretation of a federal regulation. We will ask the federal court to decide whose interpretation is correct. At the same time, we will be reviewing all of our procedures to confirm that we are in complete compliance with all applicable regulations.”

Efforts to reach an attorney for IOD were unsuccessful Friday.

The lawsuit was filed in February in Pierce County Superior Court. It was moved to U.S. District Court at the request of MultiCare and IOD on Wednesday.

Dickman’s lawsuit contends that federal regulations prohibit health care providers from charging a per-page fee for copying and providing a person his or her medical records.

A health care provider is allowed to charge a fee, but it can include only “the cost of copying (including supplies and labor) and postage if the patient requests that the copy be mailed,” the lawsuit states. “The fee may not include costs associated with searching for and retrieving the requested information.”

Dickman, through her attorneys, requested copies of her records in November after receiving treatment at a MultiCare facility.

IOD, which handles requests for records made by MultiCare patients, sent her a letter quoting her a $500 charge to produce her 503 pages of records, according to documents filed as part of her lawsuit. That charge included a basic fee of $24, a copying charge of $1.09 per page for the first 30 pages and 82 cents per page for the rest. Shipping was estimated at $12.35 and sales tax at $43.41.

Dickman complained, but IOD later notified her that the final bill would be $488.93 for the compact disc containing her records.

Her lawsuit contends that IOD knows it is not allowed to charge a per-page fee but “continually does so in an attempt to increase profits for itself and for MultiCare.”

Wisconsin-based IOD faces a similar lawsuit in the state of New York, according to federal records. IOD lawyers have made a motion to dismiss that action, which was filed in October.