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Court Backs Board Of Medicine On Records Costs

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

An appeals court Tuesday rejected a challenge to the Florida Board of Medicine in a long-running dispute about how much patients can be charged for copies of medical records.

The Board of Medicine in 2015 approved a proposed rule that would allow patients to be charged a maximum of $1 a page for records. That would be a potential increase from a longstanding maximum of $1 a page for the first 25 pages of records and 25 cents a page for additional pages.

The decision Tuesday by a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal said the proposed rule has not been ratified by the Legislature, as is required by law because of the potential increased costs. Nevertheless, the proposed rule was opposed by groups such as the Florida Justice Association and was challenged in the state Division of Administrative Hearings.

An administrative law judge in December 2015 sided with the Board of Medicine, leading to the case going to the 1st District Court of Appeal. In an eight-page decision Tuesday, the appeals court said, in part, that nothing "in the record of these extensive rulemaking proceedings shows that the Board (of Medicine) failed to follow applicable rulemaking procedures or exceeded its rulemaking authority."

Also, it rejected arguments that the proposed rule was moot because it had not been ratified by the Legislature.

"There are statutory deadlines for submission of a rule to the president of the Senate and speaker of the House for ratification, but no deadline for the Legislature to act upon a rule submitted for ratification," said the decision, written by appeals-court Judge Ross Bilbrey and joined by judges T. Kent Wetherell and Harvey Jay. "Likewise there is no statutory requirement for the board to withdraw a rule which has been adopted but not ratified. A subsequent Legislature could decide to ratify the rule."

A House analysis on a medical-records bill during this year's legislative session said the Board of Medicine in August 2016 sought to close the case and withdraw the proposed rule because of guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about charges for copies of medical records under a federal law known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. The appeals court turned down the request to close the case.