HealthPort: A New Way to “Stick It” to Patients

 by    C. Arthur Reavis    

Not too long ago I had records of a chest x-ray (or so I thought) sent from Albert Einstein Transplant Center to a local UHS doctor for a minor surgical procedure. I thought it was better to send records (two films) of my insides rather get another dose of electromagnetic radiation: a proven carcinogen. The HIPPA compliant release I signed was supposed to be for 2 films ONLY! At the bottom of the UHS releases in VERY fine print was a clause that stated that for “some” records they (UHS) could charge me $0.75 per page: when they were sending records. Not receiving them! There was no explanation as to which records did or did not incur patient cost. There was no mention of third parties charging me. There was also no mention of me giving any third party permission to copy, view or store (even temporarily) my records. There was no third  party mentioned at all. The whole point of having these records transferred was to avoid a an unnecessary shot of radiation. Also, I was not requesting these films to perform this procedure, but my surgeon was. And UHS was receiving the films, they were merely faxing the request.

Imagine my surprise when I received a bill in the mail for $31.32 from a company I was damn sure I had never heard of or dealt with before called HealthPort. (Yes they capitalize the “p” in the middle of their name…quaint isn’t it?) I was sure this was some sort of mistake especially given the fact that according to the invoice I received the records did not originate from Einstein, but from someplace called Mercy Medical Associates, who incidentally had no record of me as a patient. Moreover, the invoice was for 22 pages! Two billed at $0.99 and 20 billed at 1.34. There was a copy of the release I signed for UHS. It was my signature, it was a copy of the release I signed: I was perplexed!

I called HealthPort to try and find out why I was being billed and to get the bill voided, since I signed NOTHING giving HealthPort permission to handle MY medical records. Certainly this bill was not my responsibility because after all I was not the person requesting these films, it was my surgeon who wanted them. I just didn’t want an unnecessary x-ray.

It took 4 calls to finally speak to a supervisor at HealthPort. Customer service reps hung up on me once and twice refused  (once very rudely) before I they allowed me to speak  to  “Dwight” the supervisor. Dwight insisted that his company had every right to bill me and  since I signed the release I was indeed the person requesting the information (not my surgeon) but I could take a 30% discount on my bill, because the release I signed said I could be charged $0.75 per page.  Keep in mind that even with a 30% discount it is still approximately $5.00 more than $0.75 per page. I refused the discount and said I was not going to pay anything because after all I only gave permission for two films, not 22 pages.

Now I was curious, why was a third party handling MY information and billing me? I called the UHS business office and a they claimed never to have heard of HealthPort and insisted that they do not charge patients for records. Puzzling?

It was not until the office manager at the surgeon’s office did an investigation and found that HealthPort is being utilized by UHS. She also claimed that they do “sometimes” charge for health records. Apparently the HealthPort contract was new. Moreover, she did say that she would have the office deal with charges. Great! But where did this company come from? How did they operate? I needed to know more.

I posed as an office manager, “Leon Trotski,” working for “JC Proctology.” I inquired about setting up HealthPort at my fictitious office to find out what HealthPort did and how they operated?

According to HealthPorts own information, they save the medical facility or clinic money because HealthPort provides all the equipment and staffing to digitally capture a patient’s medical records, store them in their facility and send them where they are requested. Additionally, HealthPort claims to be HIPPA compliant and assumes all liabilities. Moreover, they state: “Will HealthPort bill our patients and physicians? Only patients that request copies of their medical records for personal reasons are billed by us according to state specified rates. Physicians, medical groups, clinics and/or patients needing copies of medical records for continuing care purposes will not be billed.” Funny but I seem to remember being told by a HealthPort supervisor that because I signed the release I was the person requesting the information. And that if it were my doctor that needed the information he would have had to signed the release. 

  Catch 22!

    It’s my information, the ONLY way that my doctor can gain access to it is to have me release it to him. The only way to have that happen is have me sign the release. Also, never mind the fact that I was requesting TWO pages and they sent 22! That does not sound very HIPPA complaint to me. Moreover, according to HealthPort they are limited in some states as to how much they can charge, but if you live in a state that that does not have a limit they get to set the rate and call it “reasonable.”

  The internet is riddled with complaints about HealthPort. From individuals who have worked there to one patient who claim to have received a bill for sending records from their GP to a “specialist” at the GP’s request down the hall in the same building. Additionally, the citizens of Arkansas have filed a class-action suit against HealthPort for charging illegal fees that HealthPort called a “sales tax” when medical records were requested.   

  Why then am I writing an article about my experience with Health                   Port?

  I’m writing this article to inform the public that when you are asked to sign a release of information you should expect a bill in the mail if HealthPort is copying your records and storing them electronically in their Atlanta Georgia facility. (All of their documents are supposedly stored here! They claim it’s safe and secure, but then so did every other business that has been hacked!) I’m also trying to expose a business that is clearly taking advantage of a citizenry. Photocopying and sending records from one doctor’s office to another should be part of the cost operating a medical office. If a patient’s doctor wants to charge for that “service” well I guess they can: but they really should NOT  burden patients with that cost: we pay the most for healthcare of any industrialized nation already. HealthPort is just one more corporation bleeding the people. They do not charge the medical facility anything for this service. The costs are assumed by
the patients!     

 What can one do to prevent this? I’m not 100% sure. But I have been putting on all permissions to treat forms as well as any other admission type form that I am asked to sign the following: “There is to be no third party access to my medical records by HealthPort, Medscan or any other copying company. Furthermore, UHS (or what ever facility it is that is requesting my signature) assumes all financial responsibility for copy and/or mailing records.” Does this work? I’m not sure, but I have not yet been denied treatment nor have I received bill. I suggest we all do this!

 

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12 Comments on “HealthPort: A New Way to “Stick It” to Patients”

  1. Libertyislost says:

    What is happening to the people’s right to privacy? If you don’t suspect wire transferred documents are always subject to being hacked. I’m am tired of dealing with medical records that have been requested without my consent and then being billed for sending my private information without a release. Where is the justice for citizens in this country, they slowly erode away as technology takes the place of personal connection.

    It’s still a mystery how my doctor got copies of previous medical documents with out my release. Even the doctor and his assistant found it unusual that I had a chart before my first visit. In the mean time I got an invoice from HealthPort?

    This situation has caused me fear. Who else has viewed my medical history, some person hitting keys that open up the door for mean spirited corporations to prey on the general public and gather data on our entire nation. It kind of freaks me out how this can be a legal operation when it clearly goes against the federal laws that are put on place to protect our well being.

    Thank you for this article. It’s nice to know I’m not the only person who has questioned this practice and totally agree with your point if view.

    • Anon says:

      Read HIPAA Privacy Act

    • Robin says:

      HealthPort is a copy service under contract as a business associate with doctors offices, clinics, and hospitals. As a business associate, the health care provider authorizes HealthPort to act on their behalf and copy/send your records as authorized and/or requested. This is legal and is not a violation of privacy. HIPAA Rules and State Law mandates the amount patients can be billed for copies of medical records. Unfortunately, if you read the release authorization you signed, it informs you that once released, the records are no longer protected by HIPAA and may be re-released by the receiver without a new signed release from the patient.

  2. Cynical says:

    I just received one of these as well. So far, I can find no one who can prove I committed to paying this (directly or indirectly) or that I was even informed of these types of charges. I’ve asked the doctor’s office who says they have no signature or any other proof and I’ve asked HealthPort, who says they have no signature or any other proof. Now, I’m not saying that I didn’t sign a document somewhere stating I agree to pay for third party document fees and such. I just don’t believe I have. And, if someone can prove that I’m contractually obligated, I’ll be happy to send a check. But, until then, this charge is currently being contested.

    Furthermore, I’m going to file a complaint with my state’s Attorney General and any other agencies to which this matter may be relevant. I would strongly suggest people ask for proof they owe such fees prior to paying them instead of blindly paying any invoice that hits the mailbox.

    As far as I’m concerned, it’s my doctor who used this service – not me. If HealthPort wants their $15, they should bill the person with whom they have a legal and binding contract. If they have one with me, they should be happy to produce a copy of it. 😉

    • Cynical says:

      Take a look at their complaint list with the Better Business Bureau. HealthPort’s M.O. seems to be that they rely on people just paying the invoice. However, those that complain appear to have their invoices cancelled (I didn’t read through every complaint – but nearly all the complaints I did read through were solved by immediate cancellation of the invoice). This suggests to me they have no real contract with the people they are billing. What a poorly structured business process! If they’re really providing a value-added service, they should partner with the business leader/s of each medical facility and have them ensure the patients are aware of the process and have signed to agree to associate fees. That’s just common sense. And my (former) doctor trusts these people with my personal, private medical records?!?!

  3. Crystal says:

    Cynical: I just received an invoice from these people. I will not be paying it, and I will be filing complaints with the BBB, but my question is, what can they do to my credit if I don’t pay them?

  4. Anon says:

    I was billed ~$40 by Healthport for 130 pages of my medical record.
    -When I contested that the bill was incorrect a Healthport rep said I had signed a document saying that there may be additional charges for my medical record, but the rep refused to email me a copy of what I had signed. I got a copy of what I signed from my clinic and it didn’t include anything about additional charges.
    -I was given a settlement and when I called back another Healthport rep said that the settlement was no longer valid. The first 2 reps didn’t tell me this.
    -My clinic said there isn’t a charge for transferring medical records for continued care. Healthport rep said that there isn’t a charge if the doctor requests the records for continued care. Another Healthport rep said that continued care is defined by HIPAA as a “specialist” that continues your treatment. I looked this up but I didn’t find that definition.
    -Healthport said that the bill was sent to collections, but that it wouldn’t appear on my credit score. I wonder if there is a law preventing this from appearing on a credit score? I know that patients can’t be denied medical records because of failure to pay for them.

    What is Healthport providing besides printing medical records? I can print 500 pages for <$10. Why are the charges so high? Wouldn't it be faster/cheaper to transfer records electronically?

  5. judie says:

    I have a new dilemma, healthport is not a company I ever heard of, now I am in the middle of a nightmare, they sent me paperwork, my name my address, someone else’s medical information! I was so pissed, I calle d them and asked where are mine? they could not tell me! my privacy has been violated beyond belief in my eyes, if I get any kind of bill for this, I will double my lawsuits that I plan on impeding upon them,

  6. Nicole says:

    I happened to come across this while browsing the Internet to see if others are having the same problems as me with this company. I requested medical records and to my surprise got a small stack of papers with a bill for almost $400! They will not let me speak to a manager, only gave me an email. I have tried emailing twice with no response. Now a collection agency is calling me trying to collect. They are willing to give me half off and let me make payments. But still… $200 for MY medical records?!!! I’m so irritated with this company. Does anyone know what can be done? Can I call the BBB? Would it do any good?

  7. Patricia Boehning says:

    Thank you…so much for this info. My Dad just received a statement from his Ins. requesting payment of 20.00 to HealthPort. They are denying payment to them and said patient should Not be Charged this either.
    We will see if he gets a bill from them now……

    • I’m very glad my article was of help to you! Good luck to both you and your dad!

    • Cynical says:

      If your father is billed, please file a report with the Better Business Bureau. If you have not seen (in spite of Healthport’s new higher rating), Healthport has scores of complaints filed against them. And, the most common response I’ve seen from Healthport is:

      “Healthport relies on the medical facility to inform the patient that they have contracted with an outside company to process their request for medical records and that there is a fee associated with copying the records as well as shipping them. In this case it seems the facility did not disclose this information to the patient therefore I will cancel the invoice. Thank you”

      I don’t know the specifics of the BBB’s rating system, but it seems like businesses can keep a higher rating by cancelling invoices — a move frustrated victims are sure to mark as an accepted solution in the BBB’s system.

      I have to believe if more people took the time the file complaints, Healthport will stop trying to invoice so many (apparently) unauthorized charges under the radar.


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