July 14, 2017
Alphonso David, Esq.
Counsel to the Governor
State Capitol, Executive Chamber
Albany, New York 12224
Re: S. 6078 (Valesky)/A.7842 (Gottfried)
AN ACT to amend the public health law and the mental hygiene law, in relation to health record access for a government benefit or program
Dear Mr. David:
We are writing to you relative to the above-referenced legislation that will prohibit health care providers and entities from charging patients for copies of medical records when such records are needed "for the purpose of supporting an application, claim or appeal for any government benefit or program".
As we understand it, the purpose of this legislation is to respond to the concerns of patients who were charged for medical records necessary to assist applications and appeals for government programs assisting lower income patients such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), despite provisions in existing law that prohibit a health care provider charging a fee where a patient is unable to pay. Physicians very much want to assist their patients with these applications for needed benefits, and do not condone the actions of those who are charging patients unable to pay for the costs of medical records needed to support these applications.
However, we are concerned that prohibiting the charging for medical records to support the application of any “government benefit or program" is too broad, and goes beyond the goal of the legislation to protect those who are applying for programs designed to assist lower income individuals. We are also concerned about patients seeking to avoid being charged to obtain their medical records by untruthfully asserting that it is to support of a government program application, which would then place the physician’s office in the awkward position of having to ask to verify for which government program the patient is applying. To address these concerns, we urge that the Governor work for a “chapter amendment” that will instead expressly identify those government benefit programs to which this fee prohibition should apply.
Thank you for your attention to these comments.
MORRIS M. AUSTER